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Full text of "The autobiography of a happy woman"

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MAO'^ii'^'^ 



THE 

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

A HAPPY WOMAN 



THE 

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

A HAPPY WOMAN 




NEW YORK 

MOFFAT, YARD AND COMPANY 

I9H 




Copyright, 1913, 1914, by 
CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY 

Copyright, 1914, by 

MOFFAT, YARD AND COMPANY 

New York 



Published^ May, 1Q14 



TO 
THOSE WHO WORK 

BY 
ONE WHO WORKS 



JO., », 1 J( 



PUBLISHERS' NOTE 

THE publishers are pledged not to reveal 
the identity of the author of this remark- 
able book. For reasons which will be obvious 
to any reader of the book, the author has made 
this a condition of its publication. But it is a 
fact that the author is a woman well known as 
a writer and worker and the book is the story 
of her life ; it traces her growth from childhood 
up; it shows the physical and mental and spir- 
itual growth of the writer; the struggle and 
stress, the hopes and joys of the girl and 
woman; the development of her philosophy of 
hope and happiness. 

The narrative is very human, de.pictipg as it. 
does the thoughts and feelings of. ^first the. 
young girl, then the woman on all the important 
phases of life's problems. 

It is an inspiring book, for n. brQathe^ 
through its pages the note of a spirit, strong In 
its power to suffer and stronger still in its 
power to hope and enjoy. It is a helpful and 
suggestive book, for it unfolds new vistas of 
thought and ideas. 

vii 



VI 11 



PUBLISHERS' NOTE 



It teaches the gospel of self-forgetfulness, 
through happy and useful work. 

''Be busy and there will be no time for self- 
pity or worry," has been one of the author's 
principles. To countless women to-day the 
book will carry its message of hopefulness and 
cheer. 

It is so sane, so human, so sincere, and so 
intensely interesting— this true story of a 
woman's hopes and fears and inspirations. 



FOKEWORD 

It need hardly be stated here — these are the 
random thoughts of a busy woman, and of a 
woman who is happy because she works. 
Woman in industry is no new phenomenon in 
the world. Women have been in industry since 
time began, since ^^Adam delved and Eve 
span.'' Only in modern days industry has 
gone out of the home ; and woman has followed 
it out. Industrious women have been in indus- 
try from creation. It is no new problem. It is 
an old problem projected out into the complex- 
ities of a fearfully complicated modern world. 

Nor are these thoughts a series of fairy 
stories, of theories as to how things ought to 
be. They are narratives of fact, as to how 
things are, disguised so slightly as not to dis- 
guise in the least, the thread of absolute truth. 
For disguises there are. Each chapter is a 
record of a segment from a life. These records 
could not have been given except on condition 
that the persons should remain anonjTiious. 

The whole series sprang from a chance re- 
mark in an editorial office one day. The world 

ix 



X FOREWORD 

was talking about a wail of woe purporting to 
come from a woman who worked. It didn't 
ring true. The woman set out to pity herself ; 
and she succeeded admirably; but the serio- 
comic thing is — the workers don't wail. I 
work ; and love it. All the women I know, who 
are worth knomng, work in the home, or out 
of it, and glory in work. I say this irrespec- 
tive of the fact, whether they own a mill, or a 
million. The happy women are the women 
who work; the unhappy ones, those who are 
idle. I turned and asked the editor why we 
were voicing the wail of woe, when all the 
women he knew, who were worth while, and all 
the women I knew, who were worth while — 
were workers. Why didn't we sound the note 
of joy for those who sing over their looms? 

And so the thoughts came forth random-wise 
— snatched from the days of a busy woman — in 
no sense a story, in no sense a plot, simply seg- 
ments of human life, hints of things rather 
than things themselves, an interpretation of 
woman in the great modern economic world. 

The eighteenth century was the century of 
discovery and exploration. The nineteenth 
century was the century of exploitation and 
invention. Are we entering on a century when 
we shall discover, explore and map another 
world — the world of spirit powers 1 What part 



FOREWORD xi 

is woman going to play in this new world? Is 
it to prepare her for this part that the impetus 
has come, forcing her into new arenas, of which 
even our mothers did not dream? I don't 
know. I only know the push has come, shov- 
ing us out. Where are we going I don't 
know. I only know if the day's work be w^ell 
done we shall arrive at that best of all prom- 
ised lands — the Land of Satisfied Souls. These 
thoughts are not written for married women; 
and they are not written for single women ; and 
they are not written for women in the home; 
and they are not written for women out of the 
home. They are written for women ivho know; 
whether they are scrubbing departmental store 
stairs, crooning over babies, clipping off divi- 
dend coupons, or cheering the despairing heart 
of some lover in the struggle. Noisy disputa- 
tions, the pros and cons of feminists and anti- 
feminists — have no place here. Why should 
they? Like the feline night-prowlers, they ex- 
press nothing but their own antagonisms. Let 
us watch rather for the w^hite sun-lit spaces 
of the dewy dawn, when one must listen for 
the voices of the Morning and brood over what 
their music means as Mary brooded over her 
Unborn. 



X FOREWORD 

was talking about a wail of woe purporting to 
come from a woman who worked. It didn't 
ring true. The woman set out to pity herself; 
and she succeeded admirably; but the serio- 
comic thing is — the workers don't wail. I 
work ; and love it. All the women I know, who 
are worth knowing, work in the home, or out 
of it, and glory in work. I say this irrespec- 
tive of the fact, whether they own a mill, or a 
million. The happy women are the women 
who work; the unhappy ones, those who are 
idle. I turned and asked the editor why we 
were voicing the wail of woe, when all the 
women he knew, who were worth while, and all 
the women I knew, who were worth while — 
were workers. Why didn't we sound the note 
of joy for those who sing over their looms? 

And so the thoughts came forth random-wise 
— snatched from the days of a busy woman — in 
no sense a story, in no sense a plot, simply seg- 
ments of human life, hints of things rather 
than things themselves, an interpretation of 
woman in the great modern economic world. 

The eighteenth century was the century of 
discovery and exploration. The nineteenth 
century was the century of exploitation and 
invention. Are we entering on a century when 
we shall discover, explore and map another 
world — the world of spirit powers 1 What part 



FOREWORD xi 

is woman going to play in this new world? Is 
it to prepare her for this part that the impetus 
has come, forcing her into new arenas, of which 
even our mothers did not dream! I don't 
know. I only know the push has come, shov- 
ing us out. Where are we going I don't 
know. I only know if the day's work be well 
done we shall arrive at that best of all prom- 
ised lands — the Land of Satisfied Souls. These 
thoughts are not written for married women; 
and they are not written for single women ; and 
they are not written for women in the home; 
and they are not written for women out of the 
home. They are written for women ivho know; 
whether they are scrubbing departmental store 
stairs, crooning over babies, clipping off divi- 
dend coupons, or cheering the despairing heart 
of some lover in the struggle. Noisy disputa- 
tions, the pros and cons of feminists and anti- 
feminists — have no place here. Why should 
they! Like the feline night-prowlers, they ex- 
press nothing but their own antagonisms. Let 
us watch rather for the white sun-lit spaces 
of the dewy dawn, when one must listen for 
the voices of the Morning and brood over what 
their music means as Mary brooded over her 
Unborn. 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

Publishers' Note vii 

Foreword xi 

I. Concerning Parasites and the Sisterhood of 

Discontent 1 

II. Acquiring Efficiency for the Work of Life 29 

III. Only a Teacher 63 

IV. When God Went Back on Me 96 

V. The Easiest Way 126 

VI. The Respectable Sign on a Blind Pig . . 160 
VII. The Sisterhood of Service 211 

VIII. Is There Anything in Newspaper Life for 

Women? 248 

IX. The Vortex — A True Story Concerning Sub 

Averages 299 

X. The Minimum Wage for Women 340 

XI. An Awakening or a Revolt? 367 



xui 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 
A HAPPY WOMAN 

CHAPTER I 

CONCERNING PARASITES AND THE SISTERHOOD OF 
DISCONTENT 

Are there any happy women left on this 
good green earth? 

One is constrained to ask because we are uni- 
versally told that half the world is in rebel- 
lion — the woman half. Married women in the 
cage want to get out. Unmarried women out 
of the cage want to break in. In fact, half 
a world of women are supposed to be wailing 
because they can't spend life in a sort of dolce 
far niente dream with both hands folded idly 
in their laps. I say *' supposed/' because, as 
a matter of fact in real life, you know and I 
know that the workers are the happy ones — 
married or single — the workers are the ones 
who sing; the idle the ones who wail. 

1 



2 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

We are told — just as if the world hadn't 
known that fact for countless years — that the 
highest duty of life is manufacturing new hu- 
man beings — ralias babies ; and that women are 
in open revolt against this duty. Yet as a 
matter of fact — not platform twaddle — not 
pyrotechnics to catch the vote of lustful men 
— we know that the supply of love-born babies 
is not dropping off ; and that, for the first time 
in the history of the race, as much thought 
and care are given to keeping the babies, that 
are born, alive as to keeping up the birth 
rate of hypothetical unborn babies. 

We are told by investigating commissions 
that women, who work behind the counter, 
over the typewriter, over the dish pan, in the 
school room, above the loom, in the factory, 
behind the broom are slaves of new industrial 
conditions; that they are desperately un- 
happy; that when the first gray hairs come, 
the iron has entered into their souls, or some- 
thing like that. (If the iron went as tonic in 
fishy blood, and gave some kick to the whine 
for self pity — a lifting kick, we'll say — there 
might be some point to it.) But the women 
that you know and I know — outside the peo- 
ple on the job at so much per for investigating 
commissions — behind the counter, over the 



A HAPPY WOMAN 3 

typewriter, above the loom, behind the broom; 
the women, who do things in the home or out 
of it, who stand for plus, not miyiuSy for per- 
formers, not parasites — are not idly poking 
irons of introspection in and out of their souls. 
They literally don't understand what all this 
talk hubbub is about. ^'Big talk: little do"— 
I have heard some of them say. 

I am a woman; and I am living in the thick 
of life ; and I have seen all sides of it ; and I 
have worked at high pace and high pressure 
with fury and joy in the home and out of it; 
and I do not find this wail of woe purporting 
to come from womanhood rings true. It is 
not true of me. It is not true of the women, 
who work, that I know. The women I know 
who work — don't find love ashes of roses; nor 
ashes of Sodom; nor joy, a fading phantom. 
Life to the worker is a dream come true, with 
nightmare giants of troubled sleep, some- 
times, of course ; but always at dawn, fear fad- 
ing in light. I am not writing this because of 
the standing policy of the average American 
editor — to make all stories end happily. I am 
not writing a story. I am setting down the 
actual facts of a life begun under handicap; 
and I want to set down that the older I grow, 
the more I find life a more beautiful thing 
than all the school girl gush and pointless 



4 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

longings of what the poets call ^' youth.'' No 
matter how hard we think our own special han- 
dicap has been — poverty, or inherited disease, 
or the tragedy of wrong parenthood, or a per- 
sonality hopelessly askew — I do not think any 
life ever came into this world mthout its own 
handicap. Why we are handicapped — who can 
tell? It may be to compel the soul to work 
out its own hardihood getting rid of the hand- 
icap, or to commit suicide sinking under it. 
When I call life a dream come true, it is not 
in blindness to the wrecks and tragedies and 
crimes that litter every foot of life's progress. 
I know there are more tragedies hidden mute 
in the home than ever were shouted from the 
housetops by the Sisterhood of Discontent; but 
I know also how much of this waste of the 
gift of life results from the collision with the 
hidden handicap of the personality. 

Having found life a dream come true, I ask 
myself (as I know multitudes of women work- 
ers inside and outside the home are asking 
themselves) is all this wail of woe genuine? Is 
the old world vocal of womanhood out of joint? 
Is there a great Sisterhood of Discontent? Or 
is it that we are so attuned to the wail of dis- 
content that we fail to note a world vocal with 
the music of the spheres ; joy at work ; service 
rendered in gladness, not grudgingly; zest of 



A HAPPY WOMAN 5 

life; reapers garnering sheaves in sunlight; 
women laughing with children at play? 

The new mental attitude to life has come so 
unexpectedly that it has left some ancient sex- 
poses forever behind; the wife-beater calling 
himself "woman's natural protector/' and at 
once proceeding to break her protected head; 
the sheep-type of woman pretending she likes 
that kind of protection; Amelia fainting with 
terror of her own safety in the arms of the 
wicked Don Juan; Don Juan pretending he is 
a very devil of a fellow engaged in the busi- 
ness of eating babies in the dark! Without 
knowing it, we have somehow come to regard 
self-pity as the beggar's hat of a mean spirit 
stuck out for alms. The heroine of old (she, 
herself, was never by any possibility supposed 
to be half-past sixteen) set out joyously, coyly, 
I was going to say "unblushingly" — only, she 
was really supposed to blush bucketfuls — to 
harpoon a man for her support; and we 
thought it pretty nearly all right, if a little 
soulful longing were mixed in as a prime 
flavor. To-day, we tear that pose to ten thou- 
sand analytic tatters. "What's she after?" 
"Wliat can she do?" "What's she going to 
give in return besides sweet smiles and sug- 
ared drafts on the family cash box?" And 



6 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

if all she has to offer is sex, all draped in 
Avistaria and roses and wistful soul longings, 
of course, we aren't surprised that she gets 
spurious coin back in return, bronze and cop- 
per and brass and putty, where she expected 
pure gold. 

Quite unknowai to ourselves as a generation, 
w^e have come to eye the parasite askance, be 
she rich or poor. It doesn't matter whether 
she belongs to the orchid or to the mosquito 
family. The w^oman, who is sorry for herself 
because she has to earn her living outside the 
home, is the very woman, who would be sorry 
for herself earning her living inside the home. 
If she is sorry for herself in an office, what 
would she be in the pangs of giving birth to a 
new life? 

My early days were passed in a Western 
city during the depression of the collapse from 
one of the worst real estate booms, that ever 
sent a whole community up in a crazy balloon 
of inflated hopes, only to drop them in a ten 
years' slough of reaction. I remember one 
speculator, who became a paper millionaire in 
anticipation of a railroad coming in, who, six 
months after the advent of the new line, was 
carried away to an asylum, where he passed 
the rest of his days bent almost double pick- 



A HAPPY WOMAN 7 

ing up imaginary diamonds. A politician in 
the same place, who between dawn and dark 
unexpectedly as a bolt out of the blue, had 
made his half million, built a palace calling it 
after some castle or other. "When the boom 
collapsed, he hadn't money enough of those 
paper thousands to light the fire in his fur- 
nace. He had to borrow money to leave the 
country. 

In your mind, draw a line on the map from 
St. Louis to St. Paul. The depression pre- 
vailing in our city was typical of conditions in 
every little new hamlet west of that line from 
the time of the Panic of 1893 up to 1898. At the 
time, we were all desperately sorry for our- 
selves. It isn't a pleasant awakening to think 
you have a lot worth $120,000, and to find in 
a day that what you really have is a mortgage 
debt for $12,000, against property, which you 
can't sell for fifteen cents and which carries 
taxes of $3,000 a year. We were all desperate- 
ly sorry for ourselves. Yet, looking back, we 
can all laugh at the hardships. We didn't 
laugh then. W^e hustled. Actual hunger never 
came within the majority of homes ; but it came 
so near the doors that I can guess and have 
often as a child dreamed what the Phantom 
Fright looks like when it stalks out of the dark 
to spring at the struggler's throat. There 



8 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

was one dream I used to have over and over 
in the darkest years of the city^s collapse. It 
was of a half-naked figure flying along the 
edge of a precipice with two wolves snapping 
at its heels ; and I do not think there were many 
people in the city at that time, who did not 
know what the sensations of the runner must 
have been. We were all, every one of us, on 
the edge. 

Though hunger never actually entered most 
of the homes, it came horribly near many a 
home that kept a brave front face to the street. 
We laugh when reminiscent now. We didn't 
laugh then. I think it was the Spirit of the 
West that sustained us buoyantly under condi- 
tions that would have plunged an older commu- 
nity into slums. There were carefully nur- 
tured women, who would have gone hungry 
that first year of the Panic, if husbands and 
brothers had not been good shots to keep the 
family larder filled with prairie chicken and 
ducks. I know of one woman who, for six 
weeks before her first child was born, lived 
alone in a prairie shanty on the outskirts of 
the city with nothing to eat but potato meal. 
An editor, who at the time represented the 
city in the Federal Government and who used 
to cheer the community's heart by thunderous 
editorials on the glorious future of the West, 



A HAPPY WOMAN 9 

would have gone hungry that winter of '03 if 
**the boys'' had not suspected that *'the old 
man" looked gaunt. They got up a shooting 
party and sent him a present of half a dozen 
barrels of wdld geese. I have heard him "in 
his cups" curse the hands that were feeding 
him ; but nobody replied ; and nobody told ; and 
the friendships cemented in such hardships 
were embedded in a reinforced concrete. 

I am stating these circumstances to make it 
clear that we were face to face with realities, 
not theories; and the beautiful thing about a 
reality is that it never lies. You learn to look 
at facts without blinders; without side-step- 
ping or flinching. A woman, who has always 
lived the mural existence of a protected home, 
is so terribly apt to mistake what ''she thinks'' 
for the great fact of ''what is." If she doesn't 
like a fact, she shuts her eyes to it. You can't 
do that when you are bumping into facts that 
you don't like. So it was not all a disadvan- 
tage that the hard times taught us to face facts 
unflinchingly. 

One of the curious features of the collapse 
was its reaction on what the study chair the- 
orists call "woman's sphere." Those were the 
days, when all the public prints were full of 
blasts and counterblasts of argument as to 
whether woman ought to go out of the home to 



10 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

become a wage-earner. We hadn't time for 
those arguments then in the West. We were 
not confronted with arguments. We were face 
to face with hunger. We had to work, or 
starv^e. '^ Ought not woman to stay in her 
own sphere of manufacturing babies 1 ' ' the dis- 
putants would ask truculently. We hadn't any 
time to answer. We had to go out and work, 
or see the babies, that were already manufac- 
tured, go hungry. It seems to me that is typi- 
cal of the ivhole woman movement. It isn't a 
rebellion, a revolt, a megalomania of individ- 
ualism run riot, the morbid monstrosity of a 
woman trying to be a mayi, to grow side-whis- 
kers and wear trousers. It is a new economic 
arena, into which woman has been forcibly 
pushed by unbending necessity. 

Let me give some more examples of that ne- 
cessity. In three weeks in that city eleven 
hundred real estate agents closed their offices 
and took down their signs. What do you sup- 
pose the real estate agents' families did about 
bread and butter just then? The doctor, who 
became the most famous surgeon west of the 
Mississippi preceding the fame of the Mayos, 
told me that he slept on the chairs in his of- 
fice that winter, and except for one mid-day 
meal, lived on peanuts and beer and hot Scotch. 



A HAPPY WOMAN 11 

He died in receipt of an income of $100,000 a 
year, of a disease contracted in those starva- 
tion days; bnt what do yon imagine his old 
mother and two elderly sisters, whom he was 
thought to be supporting, did during that bard 
stress? They went out as wage earners — I 
shall not say how; for that is their affair, not 
mine; but, to me, the funny feature of it was 
that this same doctor was a most uncompro- 
mising foe to the woman movement. If his 
mother and sisters had not worked, he would 
not have had even that one mid-day meal. 

I think of another case, a convent-bred girl, 
buxom, clean, laughing, good-natured, capable, 
with stolid, solid but at the same time the most 
passionate belief that a woman's only sphere 
was to be a loving wife and a most multitudi- 
nous mother. It is funny how life knocks our 
little self-appointed missions on the head; and 
when the half-gods go, beats us, prods us, bay- 
onets us up to the altars on our knees before 
the true! Just when the boom collapsed, this 
girPs father came to his death either by suicide, 
or falling in front of a train. Her mother 
attested her grief by at once buying on credit 
about two thousand dollars worth of deepest 
mourning. It was found that the life insur- 
ance had lapsed and the whole estate amounted 
to a horrible minus plus nine younger chil- 



12 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

dren to be fed. If this girl had not thro^vn her 
theories to the winds, and pkinged into the 
arena of the wage-earners, the home would 
have been seized by the sheriff and the family 
turned on the street. She had to take care of 
the babies already born, and let the unborn 
ones take care of themselves. She taught kin- 
dergarten, coached French, helped a convent 
in German, and laughed and danced her way 
along under the load, and worked doggedly at 
paying those debts, besides educating and sup- 
porting the other nine till they could support 
themselves. At thirty-eight she married an 
Englishman, with a right to sit in the House 
of Lords. Society sat up aghast, then received 
her with open arms. 

''How did she do it?" one shoddy disap- 
pointed mother asked. 

*'She didn't do it. It was what she ivas did 
it," I tried to explain. Your little mission, 
what you set out to do doesn't matter. It is 
what you are, what you become in what you 
do that wins or loses life's game for yon. Why 
did he do it? Because he happened to know 
what she had unostentatiously been doing all 
her life ; but there are many things that he will 
never know. 

He will never know, for instance, that one 
summer when she was supposed to be in Eu- 



A HAPPY WOMAN 13 

rope on a holiday, she was secretly comforting 
a remote relative, who in the scramble of a 
speculative era had landed in the penitentiary. 
He will never know^ that once, when she wore 
her clothes so many seasons that friends mur- 
mured, she was using her allowance for dress 
to shield a woman in disgrace. And I never 
saw a tear of self-pity on this worker's face. 
I never heard her utter one complaint against 
life. I never heard her blame others for the 
load bequeathed to her willing shoulders. She 
once told me that the most worrying duty she 
ever undertook was her husband's first fam- 
ily of girls brought up in a sort of dolce far 
niente of pampered dreams of what life w^as 
to give them, not what they were to give life. 
''The trouble is," she once burst out, ''these 
girls have been brought up expecting every- 
thing to be done for them. Their indolent sel- 
fishness repels the kind of friends they need; 
and when people leave them to themselves, they 
get peevish at life. If they had been taught 
to do something; noblesse oblige if you like, 
that we have to do something for everj^ blessed 
minute we are alive to justify our being alive 
at all they would have learned to forget them- 
selves. I am going to put — yes, you needn't 
shout, I'm going to put in a business of- 
fice." 



14 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

I did shout. "What, in business! You, who 
think woman's sphere ?" 

''Shut up,*' she said. ''Emerson says only- 
fools and cowards are consistent/* 

So I could go on to tell of hosts of women, 
shaken out by the Panic, that turned every- 
thing upside down, from all their little con- 
ventional pigeon holes and sheep cotes and 
Chinese boots. Indeed, the Panic of '93 did 
more than anything else I know, than all the 
arguments and pros and cons to take the foot 
bindings of prejudice, the Chinese boots of 
tradition, off the feet of Western women. 

"I couldn't — I simply couldn't — become a 
parasite," said a Southern woman, who has 
risen to be head of a great brokerage cotton 
agency. "Women in industry aren't new. In- 
dustrious women have always been in indus- 
try. It is merely that of late years, so many 
industries have gone out of the home that we 
have had to sit with empty hands by silent 
looms, or else follow the industries out of the 
home to the place where they have gone." 

It does not sound like a wail of woe from 
a Sisterhood of Discontent — does it? In fact, 
when the Panic shook us all out of our little 
pigeon holes of prejudice in '93, I do not know 



A HAPPY WOMAN 15 

of a single woman — wife, daughter, sister — ef- 
ficient and self-respecting, who did not put her 
shoulder to the wheel, to lift finances out of 
the slough where they had fallen. We did not 
talk of woman's sphere and domestic virtues. 
We rolled up our sleeves and jumped into the 
arena of work. There were the drum beaters 
of woe, of course, who talked vaguely of for- 
mer grandeur and of the fearful come-do^vn 
this pioneer rough-and-tumble had been to 
them; but as they talked, some little slip, 
unmanicured nails, perhaps, the Uvist of a 
word, the slur of an articulation, the wrong 
tang of slang, a slant of sidewise eyes, put 
the seal of damnation on their revelation; and 
we came to know in that hard stress, when 
every hand was needed to turn, push, pull, oil 
the wheels of life, that 07ili/ the no goods pre- 
tended to he too good to luork. 

Into this big free hard arena of Western 
work, I came as a child from the East. As we 
none of us get shaken out of our pigeon boxes 
of prejudice, out of the prisons of our own 
personality, ivhich are the deepest dungeons of 
all, without a flutter of hopes and fears on 
callow wings, I may as well set dowm the facts. 
They are not pleasant. They were horribly 
painful; and, as I look back, I loathe myself 



16 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

for having paid any more attention to the pain 
than a child does to a bump. Of course, if 
you poultice a bump long enough, you can 
make a perpetual tenderness on the spot — 
even an ulcer. 

We had not yet moved West. 

Always, there had been something in the 
home that made us children want to play out- 
side in the sunlight. We would never stay in. 
Winter or summer, we wanted to do all our 
placing outside. It came to the point where I 
would let finger tips poking through holes in 
mits freeze before I would go in to warm up. 
I didn't want to miss one second of being alive. 
I did not know then that what drove me to the 
sunlight outside was an intangible, indefinable 
shadow inside. I only knew that I was hap- 
pier outside ; and I carry about with me to this 
day two slightly stubbed finger tips from freez- 
ings and tha^\dngs, which I would never ac- 
knowledge. I knew that each of the brothers 
had left home just as soon as he could obtain 
a position yielding a living. I knew that the 
sisters were kept away at school as long as 
the money could be made to last. Fortunately, 
it did not last down to me; so that I stayed 
at home long enough to learn what the shadow 
was inside that drove the children outside. 



A HAPPY WOMAN 17 

We lived in a very beautiful country border- 
ing the lower of one of the Great Lakes. The 
passion for the outdoors made friends for me 
of every horse, cow, dog, cat, chicken and bird 
on the place. If I had not been the 3'oungest, 
I suppose I should have annexed the baby to 
this list, too. I knew more intimately than I 
knew human playfellows, the blue warblers, 
that call flute notes in June, the yellow finches 
that chirp and twitter late in July, the long 
wedge-shaped lines of wild geese that pilfer 
wheat lands in autumn ; and I have lain in the 
fields, whistling back their call by the hour. 
If you lie very still, mid birds are full of curi- 
osity, especially crows and geese; and to see 
how near you could bring the old ganders honk- 
ing do^\Ti on investigating tours would send the 
most delicious thrills of adventure up and 
down a child's spine. How I escaped accident 
in the stables, I don't know; for neither my 
parents nor the hired hands could keep me out 
of the danger zone. I took extemporized rides 
on broad backed Durham cow^s that ^'hooked.'* 
I never went round a horse's heels when un- 
watched. I dodged through under their bodies 
and w^as never kicked. A showy pet carriage 
horse once lifted me with his teeth ; but a thick 
coat protected the shoulder bone; and once a 
young heavy draught Clydesdale gave my par- 



18 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

ents the scare of their lives. I had gone to a 
back field to summon the hired man. The good 
natured fellow put me on the colt's back. I 
was curious to know whether so heavy a draft 
horse could gallop. The young man was en- 
gaged shutting the railroad gate that led up 
the lane. I gave that horse a kick in the soft 
of the flank, where the gentlest horse on earth 
mil suffer no liberties; and I don't think he 
stopped demonstrating his kicking abilities at 
both ends for the length of a mile. He had the 
time of his life for ten full minutes. 

^'Hang on, don't let go," came a terrified 
yell behind. The young fellow was afraid to 
pursue for fear of sending the obstreperous 
colt over the fence. 

'^Well, miss," he admonished confidentially 
later, ^'I guess you learned when you've raised 
the devil that you have to hang on, or break 
your neck." 

I had. The lesson proved useful later, when 
we all went through that Western Panic. 

The constant companionship with living real 
things gives a child a curious indifference to 
dead things — that is, dead ones that should be 
alive; dolls that do nothing but roll beautiful 
^'goo eyes" and squeak out inane remarks; 
rocking horse toys, that romp round a room 



A HArPY WOMAN 19 

kicking their heels and back again, never get- 
ting anywhere. I had never the slightest in- 
terest in make-believe toys. If they put them 
in my Christmas stocking, I threw them behind 
the door. Once an uncle fresh from England 
with very pronounced English ideas about 
proper training for girls (he was a bachelor, 
of course) took me in hand with a good scold- 
ing about contempt for dolls — "Little girls 
ought to like dolls; because dolls were little 
girls' babies." I told him I loved babies; 
but dolls were cheats; they couldn't do a thing 
but roll their eyes. He departed in disgust. I 
sat down to ponder. This stupid wax thing in 
my hand had brought undeserved rebuke. 
Criminals in human life were hanged, whether 
by heels or head I did not know; but I took 
a spool of thread and hanged that stupid wax- 
faced idiot by the heels to the door knob. Then, 
I went out to the real things, the pups and 
the kittens and the colts. After that Christ- 
mas, no more inane toys fell to my lot. I was 
given full bent with living real things. Poor 
Uncle Jim! He is an old man now, but still 
advising other people on their morals and 
their manners; but he has made a failure of 
life. It has blinked him with ''goo" eyes all 
the way through — wax-faced cheats that melt 
in heat, and break in stress, not realities with 



20 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

whom, if you *^ raise the devil, you have to 
hang on or break your neck." 

That love of realities bred by God's gift of 
staunch animal friends has stuck through life ; 
sometimes, a horribly uncomfortable thing, 
like a burr in my chest; then again, a pilot 
star to a promised land. In after life when 
meeting doll-types; wax-faced, soft-haired, 
eyes limpid as sky-water, with display of all 
the little doll graces, tinkling ear-rings, a show 
of pearly teeth, a roll of expressionless eyes, 
inane remarks, the old feeling of affront would 
come back; and I have never seen what is 
known as the doll type of man without recalling 
these rocking horse toys that couldn't do any- 
thing but just romp round and back again. Is 
this, too, typical of the changed attitude in 
woman's outlook on life, of her reaching out 
past make-believes to realities'? Is she going 
to break out of her doll house? 

There were rare good days spent in the 
open meadows with the whole dumb world for 
playfellows. Sundays in good weather were 
spent under a big willow in an old garden lis- 
tening to story books. When the autumn and 
spring rains came, we became discoverers of 
unknown worlds rafting uncharted seas on voy- 



A HAPPY WOMAN 21 

ages across swollen brooks and mud puddles. 
There were no *' merry-go-rounds,'^ or "shoot 
the chutes''; but we did attempt running Ni- 
agara by sliding down a water spout during a 
plunging shower straight into the rain barrel. 
Outsiders and grown-ups were not invited to 
this function. The exigencies of the case re- 
quired exit by a low roof window and ''night- 
ies" tied a la Turkish costume. The acrobat 
able to endure longest under the deluge of the 
spout was awarded highest applause. There 
were sugarings off in the maple woods in 
spring, when taffy on bass wood chips and taf- 
fy in belts of elastic syrup hardening to the 
frost got inextricably tangled in pig tail hair 
and red-riding-hoods. These celebrations were 
usually held by starlight round a huge log fire. 
That out-door world afforded little feet a 
chance to chase real adventure and real ro- 
mance down the real paths of everyday life; 
and I never see the feet of youth on the age- 
less quest of romance along city streets, but I 
know that if we children had been born in the 
gutter and those children of the city streets 
had been born to our open meadows — we, too, 
would have mistaken painted wax faces and 
make-believe hobby horses for the real thing, 
and come to aere cheated of vouth. 



22 THE AUTOBIOGRxVPHY OF 

There comes a time when we know that we 
have suddenly awakened to a realization of 
life. The awakening may come in a great joy, 
or a great love, or a great sorrow, or all three ; 
so that we hardly know whether the pain of 
love is greater than its joy, or the joy greater 
than its pain ; but when for a moment the veil 
of things lifts, we fall on our faces before 
Life. 

I had known that the others of the family 
as they came to their early teens, scattered 
from the home nest. I had come to know that 
the shadow in the home was deepening; but 
what it was, childhood could not define. The 
English uncle had gone West. Our father had 
gone West. The whole country from Atlan- 
tic to Pacific was beginning to feel the pinch 
that shook us all out of our pigeon boxes in 
the Panic of '93. Everybody was hard up. 
Financial worry had come to be a constant in- 
visible presence in the home; but it was not 
that. 

The revelation came one beautiful spring 
day, when the mist was on the meadows and 
among the cobwebby tender green of the May 
foliage. It was Sunday. When we had all 
been polished and furbished up to go otf to 
some church festival instead of passing the 
afternoon under the willow tree, I had a feeling 



A HAPPY WOMAN 23 

that we were being packed off for some reason. 
Our father had come back to make arrange- 
ments to move us West; and somehow there 
was something in the air. I couldn't help sus- 
pecting that both my mother and father were 
mentally distressed. I ran round to the back 
of the house and came unheard on my mother 
standing very still by a rain pool in the or- 
chard. She did not see me in time to hide the 
secret revealed on her face. I had caught the 
expression on the face reflected in the pool be- 
fore she looked up. It w^as despair of life ; the 
utter end of hope; heartbreak mute for a life 
time. She did not speak. Neither did I. I 
w^as not ten years old ; and childhood fell away 
like a worn cloak from that day. 

I knew^; and yet I could not have told what 
I knew. I knew from that day that I must 
earn. I knew from that day that I must fight, 
that there is no peace ivitliout a victorif, that 
^'he who fights and runs away and lives to 
fight another day,'' might just as well fight 
the fight at the first challenge of fate, and win 
or die trying to win ; for if he runs a wag, there 
is no hiding place in Heaven or Hell — defeat 
will pursue him. Sooner or later he must turn 
and make his stand, and do or die. It isn't 
as we would have it. It is as life ordains. I 
knew that Phantom Fric'ht and Want and that 



M THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

tragedy of all tragedies — a living one, a hope- 
less chasm between husband and wife — had 
come menacing our happiness like satyr ghosts 
stealing out of the dark. I knew from that day 
that I must protect the home; or see it de- 
stroyed; and is not that typical of ninety-nine 
cases out of a hundred, where girls and women 
become wage-earners, where they enter the 
arena called "industry"? 

It is not a matter of choice. Therefore cease 
arguing about it. It is a matter of force. 
Therefore, let us see that the conditions are 
made right — that the girl is as well protected 
outside the home as in it, and that she goes 
forth equipped with the only weapon that will 
win the Battle of Life — efficiency, physical and 
mental. It did not matter in the least whether 
I was able to earn, able to fight, able to pro- 
tect. I had to, whether I was able or not. If 
I was not able, then I must make myself able. 

I did not realize then that every member of 
our family had been born with several very 
serious handicaps; too many nerves, too little 
nerve; more brains than brawn, which fore- 
ordains traged}^ just as soon as the hard test 
of lifers scramble up and do^vn hill begins to 
shake the flimsy machinery to pieces; and a 
very pronounced tendency to weak lungs on 
both sides of the house. Against these handi- 



A HAPPY WOMAN 25 

caps should be set tliree distinct advantages. 
First, we all had the advantage of that out- 
door life, of training in realities, that never lie 
and never cheat. Fools we have been, all of 
us, many times. Blunders we have made ga- 
lore, so that I have come to the pass where, 
though I ask God to forgive my sins because I 
can't forgive them myself, ten times more I 
ask Him to wipe out my blunders; for I 
wouldn't forgive them if I could. And I think 
we've all been inclined slightly to be soft 
heads. We have had to learn to be hard, to 
realize that though diamond and charcoal are 
composed of the very same thing, it is the dia- 
mond that is hard. Training in out-door re- 
alities taught us all truth and integrity. I 
mean the kind of truth so that you realize that 
you must not lie to yourself. Another advan- 
tage was my mother's belief that innocence is 
no protection unless it is the innocence of 
knowledge as distinguished from the innocence 
of ignorance. She did not believe that a boy 
could know what evils to shun or why, a girl 
what dangers or why, unless taught what the 
signs of the evils and dangers were, instead of 
learning by experience, when it is too late. 
We all stepped into the arena of life knowing 
the signs to shun and why. 

There was another advantage very hard to 



26 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

define but we all went out in the world 
equipped with it. My mother had a peculiar, 
almost uncanny, Celtic clairvoyant power to 
project the image of her personality with us 
all through life. In stress, in turmoil, in joy, 
"In tight places of complicated decision, we have 
all felt her invisibly beside us, not advising, 
but shedding a sort of spiritual radiance on 
life. I am not a spiritualist and know little 
about spiritualism; but I know that we have 
all had this consciousness of her influence. It 
has a peculiarly clarifying, calming effect, 
when the waters flow below the bridge of life 
both turbid and tempestuous — this spirit touch 
of a love that is — I cannot say dead; for I 
know that the presence is with me as really 
and tensely to-day as that afternoon when we 
stood beside the rain pool in the orchard. 

I longed to grow up. I grudged the min- 
utes till I could earn. If I could have taken 
a dagger and stabbed these Phantom Foes 
menacing out of the dark, I would gladly have 
died for the privilege of giving the death 
stroke ; but the trouble is seeing red and going 
out to kill — doesn't help. It's hustling that 
helps. 

My mother did not speak. Neither did I as 
we linked arms and went up the back stairs. 
At the landing she turned. 



A HAPPY WOMAN 27 

'^Aren't you going to the festival?^' 
I shook my head. We entered the room ; and 
I flung my arms about her, but could not utter 
the question on my lips, any more than she 
could muster up evasive words to delude child- 
hood back into blind happiness. I laid my head 
on her shoulder. There were no tears. Though 
tears have come to my eyes and throat since, 
from that day to this, I have literally never 
shed a tear. W^hat I wanted to ask, what I 
wanted to hurl at the very throne of God, was 
the question — Is it the common lot of woman 
to suffer in mute heartbreak? Is suffering 
an inevitable and necessary part of her lot? 
Does it do any good, this suffering? What's 
it for? W^hy? I have been seeking the an- 
swers to those questions all my life, answers 
in fact, not argument; and I should like to bor- 
row the angel Gabriel's trumpet to sound 
abroad the answer that I've found. It would 
needs be a golden instrument with the mellow 
notes of a hunter's horn or the glad shout of 
disimprisoned waters in spring to voice the 
answer I have found. 

And isn't that typical too, of this whole 
woman movement? Aren't the women moving 
uncertainly on untried feet to untried goals — 
seekers? And aren't the wallers, the para- 
sites, the sisterhoods of discontent weak ones 



28 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

lost in the dark, shivering at Phantom Fears 
they will neither fight nor face ! That was my 
first glimmering of the great economic fact, 
which the world has barely yet sighted that 
women in industry, the economic independence 
of women, if you like to put it that way is not 
the repudiation of womanhood and the func- 
tions of womanhood, but is the building of a 
fortress of security round about womanhood 
against brutality and force and hunger; is a 
guarantee of the right of every man child and 
every woman child to be love-bom. 

And in a few weeks we had joined the great 
migration West. 



A HAPPY WOMAN «9 



CHAPTER II 

ACQUIRING EFFICIENCY FOR THE WORK OF LIFE 

When I speak of a woman acquiring effi- 
ciency for the work of life, needless to say I 
do not mean acquiring efficiency for a career. 
A career is not an aim. It is a result ; in fact, 
the result of doing the everyday work of life 
well, and acquiring efficiency for it. If one ac- 
quires efficiency, the career will take care of 
itself. If one does not acquire efficiency, all 
the ambition, all the en\y, all the spurts of 
determination ever brewed in a witch's caldron 
of wretchedness will not effect a career. It 
was natural, perhaps, in a great transition 
period from mural existence to a world arena, 
that misguided enthusiasts should preach "the 
career" idea to young girl graduates at com- 
mencement exercises ; that thoughtless friends 
out of sheer vanity should spur eager young- 
sters up to chase a rainbow will-o'-the-wisp, 
without the slightest regard to natural endow- 
ment. 

You do not need to pursue a career. If you 



30 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

acquire the thing called efficiency, the career 
will pursue you. There is no woman living 
who, looking back on her school days, cannot 
recall case after case of the tragedy from fol- 
lowing the ig7iis fatuiis of a career. In the 
old days, when it was something of a triumph 
for a woman ^'to break into^' the man's uni- 
versity, many a girl thought all she had to 
do was, first pass inside the sacred portals; 
second pass the men in her studies; third 
pass the examinations 99 or 100 per cent.; 
and all life would open before her a golden 
easy way. Well, she did all these things, hur- 
dled over the portals if they did not open; 
beat the men out of their boots in studies ; cap- 
tured all the scholarships; but somehow life 
did not open a golden easy way. Neither did 
the way seem to lead anywhere. I have heard 
disappointed women explain the thing this 
way: ^'Boys seem to develop more slowly than 
girls ; but then, when they get out in the world, 
they seem to go ahead faster. '* The fact ig- 
nored in this explanation was that while the 
girls were cram — cram — cramming themselves 
with second-hand, diluted book knowledge, the 
boys, out on the campus taking knocks and 
kicks from men they might hate, down in the 
wildest hurly-burly of rowdy rackets, were 
having bumped and thumped into them hard, 



A HAPPY WOMAN SI 

not second-hand, diluted book knowledge, but 
first-hand facts of life. The boys were failing 
in their examinations but learning how to play 
the game of life, and how to have the reptile 
vices of littleness knocked out of their souls. 
The girls were capturing prizes but learning no 
more of the big world arena than their grand- 
mothers, who had never left the four walls 
of home, had knowm. They were, some of them, 
growing a fungus of hopes in studious shades 
bound to rot in the bitterness of later life. In 
literature, art, music, the theater, the will-o'- 
the-wisp vanity of a career has caused even 
more poignant tragedies. New York, London, 
Paris, Vienna have literally armies of fake 
vampire teachers, who batten and fatten on 
this sad vanity of a career. There are ^'lit- 
erary agents'' galore, w^ho for the sum of $10 
will "fix up" a young w^riter's manuscript to 
ensure certain fame and fortune. One such 
was under arrest by the postal authorities for 
"a get rich quick" scheme. Another failed to 
run a basement eating house. A third took off 
to parts unknown to escape exposure. A fourth 
once came to me to know" if I could raise ten 
thousand among my friends to furnish offices 
up in style and advertise because "young au- 
thors are so crazy to get their stuff published 
that if you advertised w^ide enough and got a 



32 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

few big names on your list of directors, you 
could count on a thousand manuscripts a day 
coming in, which at $10 per and expenses of 
only a few thousands a year; and so on.'* I 
wasn't taken in. Somebody else was. There 
are dramatic schools in all these cities, that 
have literally never graduated an actor, or in 
fact, a thing but ^^yellow-cutionists" and divi- 
dends ; and it would take an ambitious student 
of music — ^' voice culture,'' is the word — to tell 
the inside story of blackmail and bleeding to 
which many a girl, coming as a stranger to a 
great city, and ambitious for a career, has been 
subjected. The attics of London and Paris and 
Vienna and New York are strewn with such 
wrecks; girls who have set out with the bless- 
ing of parents and the applause of a whole 
community, who have spent every cent they 
had and a great deal they hadn't, who have 
impoverished ^Hhe old folks" at home, and 
then, through no fault of their own but lack 
of ability, of physical or mental stamina, of 
nerve or verve, have failed to make good and 
been ashamed to go back without the tag of a 
career attached to their names. Sometimes, 
where the money held out, or the victim had 
**pull," the press agent has been called in to 
create the bluff of a career, that did not exist; 
and with this empty and bitter mask on a sad 



A HAPPY WOMAN S3 

face, the victim has turned hack. What be- 
comes of those who don't make good and don't 
turn back only the God who looks down from 
the stars, through the roofs of the huddled 
cities, knows. I am quite sure, if the Angel 
Gabriel had ever been a human being, tears 
w^ould dim his vision in setting down such rec- 
ords. Of the one who did succeed out of the 
tens of thousands, who tried and failed, we 
all hear; but we do not hear of the multitudes 
of half-way-ups, and the still greater multi- 
tudes who never got up at all. Be sure if you 
sing like a nightingale above a peanut wagon 
or a hurdy gurdy the world will stop and 
listen without any misguided friends sticking 
bayonets in the ticklings of your own vanity. 
If you write like Shakespeare, or Mr. Dooley, 
the world will find you out without any big 
drum to announce you are here. If it's in you, 
it will break out! Don't hurt yourself whirl- 
ing dervish dances all round your ego to ex- 
orcise the spirit! 

And so for a girl setting out in life — or boy, 
either, for that matter — the word career to me 
has come to be a sort of marsh light leading 
into the death swamps. You attend to your 
job : the career ^\dll attend to itself. And here 
comes in the beautiful inconsistency: though 
we have preached home as woman's sphere for 



34" THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

a thousand years, wliat training have we pro- 
vided for efficiency on the job! ''Bah, none 
of your study fag for me,'' I recall one ac- 
quaintance saying. ''All I want is to jabber 
a little French, bang the piano, dance; and 
that will do for me." Plus a trip abroad, that 
is exactly all the training for her job she ac- 
quired; and she has been like a huge feather 
bed, or a millstone, weighted round her hus- 
band's neck ever since. A knowledge of arith- 
metic as far as the multiplication tables, a few 
polite languages, fancy-work, music, sewing; 
and the girl of the old order was supposed to 
be equipped for life. If her men supporters 
failed her, she could take in lodgers, sew, do 
house work ; perhaps, in a very dainty and lady- 
like way, teach a few private pupils. These 
things failing, there remained only the convent 
or the devil. A man was always carefully 
trained for his work. A woman was supposed 
to be born fully equipped for hers. What 
did she know about the physiology of birth ; of 
pre-natal influences; of diseases that might 
blind her child; of practical nursing; of the 
science of things that go into the household's 
stomach? Nothing! Less than nothing! It 
was not supposed to be proper to mention 
these things in a young girl's presence. Her 
equipment for eiSciency was to be kept in a 



A HAPPY WOMAN S5 

state of absolute ignorance. What were the 
results? I shall give two examples of which 
I personally know. One young wife for rea- 
sons purely personal affecting linancial affairs 
w^as in a state of terrible depression before 
her first child was born. Her sole hope w^as 
that the child would be born dead. He w^asn't. 
He came into the world an erratic genius sub- 
ject to terrible alternations of do-nothing lan- 
guid depression and bursts of almost genius 
in whatever he touched. Toward middle life, 
when he was at the university, his mother 
began studying everything affecting the effi- 
ciency of her position as a wife and mother. I 
remember once, looking up from a book, she 
remarked quite casually as if dreaming back 
through the years: "I wonder if there is any- 
thing in all this theory of prenatal influence 
coloring a child's disposition?" 

''Whyf' 

''Because if there is and B should ever 

do anything to himself, I'll know^ it was the 
way I felt and what I tried to do before he w^as 
born. ' ' 

In his twenty-first year, after a particularly 
erratic but excellent course in the university, 
that boy was found in the bath tub with his 
throat cut from ear to ear. I am not setting 
down pretty fictions. I am setting down facts. 



36 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Was the mother to be blamed? Her husband 
was a business man. From his fifteenth year, 
he was trained in efficiency for his job. She 
was meant and designed by her parents for 
marriage at the earliest possible moment. She 
was, in fact, taken by the scruff of the neck 
and married off willy-nilly when barely eigh- 
teen. Her training in efficiency for her work 
was to be kept in absolute abysmal ignorance 
of every fact concerning it. 

Yet another case : the first words that the lit- 
tle daughter of a friend of mine uttered were 
— ' ' Won 't ! Won 't ! Won 't ! " That daughter 's 
whole life has been one tempestuous chafing 
against the line of whatever she was doing. 
She has been forceful and successful and at- 
tractive as the world rates such things beyond 
words. She has been too sensible ever to be 
obstinate; but her whole life has been reck- 
lessly wilful and tempestuous. Her spirit re- 
minds you of a stormy sea. Before her birth 
her father was following a headstrong course 
in opposition to all sense that wrecked forever 
that family's peace and fortune; and the sins 
of the parent had descended, not as the curse 
of an erratic Deity, but purely as cause and 
effect to the next generation. Were the par- 
ents to blame! Had they been trained in ef- 
ficiency for the job of life? 



A HAPrV WOMAN iH 

To-day, though at least ten per cent, of the 
total population of women in every civilized 
countr}^ have to go out in the industrial arena 
as wage earners, whether they want to or not, 
though ninety per cent, remain in the home 
arena also I trust as wage earners, as plus in 
the scheme of things, not minus, we haven't 
improved much on the old order of training in 
efficiency for the job. We have only awakened 
to a realization that the old system is not '^de- 
livering the goods"; and in a frantic endeavor 
to improve things, we continue to make end- 
less experiments. 

When we first moved West, and I awakened 
to a realization that I must join the great 
army of wage-earning women, that I must earn 
for the home and protect the home and fight 
for the home (otherwise, there would be no 
home), that it wasn't a theoretic question of 
woman's sphere but a practical question of 
getting bread, I had, like all other wage-earn- 
ing women of this transition period, vague 
ideas about acquiring efficiency for the work 
of life. We hadn't time to acquire efficiency. 
We were tumbled out of our pigeon holes hit 
or miss, and had to earn. W"e knew only a 
fevered desire to get in harness and work for 
results. And right here, it seems to me, is the 



38 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

first foreshadowing of tragedy with woman in 
the wage-earning arena. It is too often a hit 
or miss. There is no preparation; or if there 
is, it is too often a preparation that defeats 
its own ends. You can sometimes be too near 
the woods to see the trees. You must go up 
on the hill tops to get a perspective of life. 
That is why, though you may not take a 
friend ^s advice, a friend in need is a friend, 
indeed; for detached from the entanglement 
and pressure of necessity, a friend's views will 
sometimes give you a new angle on a situa- 
tion. That is why religion helps in keen stress. 
It enables you to get out of yourself for a 
moment, to escape from the prison of your own 
personality and get a new breath before you 
go back into the fray; and to this day, when 
wearied from any fray, my first desire is to 
get out into the woods, into the ^vilderness, 
into the desert, to forget things for a moment 
so that I can come back with a new mind. I 
believe people of religious temperaments ex- 
press this by saying that they go into retreat. 
I had no such friend in whom I could con- 
fide at that time. I was too insanely proud 
to confess how desperately poor we were. The 
funny thing was that nine people out of ten, 
who migrated West before the Panic of '93, 
were just as poor, and all too insanely proud 



A HAPPY WOiNIAN S9 

to confess it. It was a sort of secret between 
them and God. I know society men, who kept a 
front to the world on less than $40 a month; 
and lawyers' waives who kept servants for the 
appearance of things on $65 a month ; and big 
legal firms that were not earning enough to 
pay office rent. We went into the North- West 
a few years preceding the Panic of '93 with 
forty dollars a month to sustain a family of 
five. Don't ask how^ w^e did it! We didn't 
do it. Our mother did it; and did it so w^ell 
we never knew she was accomplishing the big- 
gest feat of all modern economics, making ends 
meet that wouldn't, as thousands and tens of 
thousands of nameless mothers are doing to- 
day all over the world — the silent tireless w^ar- 
riors of the piping times of peace that have 
no annals. We pension a soldier who loses a 
leg in battle against a man-foe. What do we 
pension a mother, who wears out her eye- 
sight mending half the night, keeping the Wolf 
from the door, fighting off that elemental foe 
of the race — Hunger-Fright? 

Though I had no friend, whose advice might 
have steered me past a Danger Zone at that 
time (don't smile; I mean it, every word), 
I made a tremendous confidant of God. I used 
to hum myself to sleep with sort of extem- 
porized prayers or chants in which I told Him 



40 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

all about it, this in a house so badly built and 
in such a terrific climate that you had to put 
your head under the bed clothes to keep from 
freezing, and you could sweep a dust pan of 
hoar frost from the windows in the morning. 
The whole city had grown up like a mushroom, 
on foundations of chips; and the houses were 
all alike, shells. I used to read the Bible back- 
ward and forward, and inside out and back^ 
again. I wanted facts I could anchor to ever- 
lastingly and never get fooled. Once, I re- 
member, in a fury at some bungle in plans, 
in a determination to found my life on horse- 
sense instead of mushy platitudes, I attacked 
the Book of Proverbs and conunitted it to 
memory from A to Z in about three days. 
The trouble was though I wrote the precepts 
^'on the tablets" of my heart — as Solomon, 
mse old man, commends in his cynical epi- 
grams of everlasting truth — those same pre- 
cepts were not always in the palms of my 
hands when I began to handle the cards that 
Fate shuffled out. I knew the wisdom theo- 
retically all right, but somehow I didn't al- 
ways get it applied till afterward. We can 
all learn old Solomon off by memory. We have 
to get it in bumps before we know it. Any- 
way, I had a profound, unshakable, absolutely 
undoubting faith that, if God backed me, I 



I 



A HAPPY WOMAN 41 

couldn't bo bucked; that if I played the game 
according to His Rules, no matter what the 
odds, I'd win out; that, no matter how frail I 
was physically, He could make perfect His 
strength in my weakness. I was as certain of 
these beliefs as I was of being alive. I did 
not read the Bible for the sake of ''being 
good." I read it with fevered anxiety for 
facts to steer by. At the time I was reading 
the Bible in this fever, I was adjudged riotous 
in the day schools and anathema in the Sun- 
day School. I could not stand the tabby-cat 
program, the platitudes handed out for truths, 
which every one of us knew were lies and 
would not hold water in daily life for one 
minute. 

And now the question comes, fearfully from 
the believing, in smiling cynicism from the un- 
believing, having this Faith w^hich was guar- 
anteed to remove mountains, did it justify it- 
self? I am not going to set down what you 
want or expect me to set down. I am not go- 
ing to set down what I wanted or expected 
myself at that time. I am going to set down 
the exact facts; for at the present stage in 
the contest of belief and unbelief — I take it 
that an ounce of fact is worth several tons 
of theology. If you ask — with this faith, did 
I get what I wanted? — I answer frankly that 



42 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

I did' not. I didn't find faith a wizard wand 
''to touch" God for any fool desire. Faith 
isn't an electric office bell to use God for our 
beck and call as an office boy. It's an electric 
bell all right; but it is He, who touches it; 
and we, who jump. We can disregard the call 
if we like. That is our loss; not His. We 
don't get the pay check— that is all. Somebody 
else, who answers the bell, gets it. We can't 
break moral laivs — get that into your head 
hard! We can't break the laws. They break 
us. If you ask again — did that faith of the 
little child pan out! I answer in the words 
of the first great English scientist, Bacon — 
you can only command nature by obeying her ; 
you can only get results out of faith by hitch- 
ing your plans to a star; by obeying the rules 
of the game, not expecting the Umpire to bend 
the rules to you. If you'll excuse the Western 
colloquialism in which we all talked at that 
time and which always seemed to me to smack 
more of truth and life than the canned and 
stilted phrases of the wordmongers — It's a 
long shot more important for you to observe 
the Eules of the Game, than for the rules to 
observe you. 

If somebody had made me understand at 
the time that we have not only to pray for 
Strength but to Fight for it, and that it is the 



A HAPPY WOMAN 43 

Struggle of the Figlit that makes ns strong; 
that wlien adversity comes, it isn't the Will of 
God to fry ns, or gruel ns, or something, but 
is simply a boisterous storm wind blowing the 
rotten leaves off our branches, blowing the 
punk and the cobwebs out of our souls, shaking 
us free of everything that doesn't matter — if 
I could have realized this, it would have saved 
a lot of growing pains in the soul. 

Entering the North- West by the first train 
that crossed the Upper Mississippi, we found 
ourselves in the curious medley of a collapsed 
boom town. The men of the family scattered 
to ranch and homestead, homesteads, which, 
by the way, they had abandoned before the 
great Panic had passed. My mother remained 
in the city to educate us, with the income al- 
ready specified. Xot the income, but the pro- 
cess of education, was the Danger Zone. There 
was not a single private school, except con- 
vents for Indian children. West of Lake Su- 
perior at that time; and my mother had by 
this time come to the point where knowing that 
we would have to go out into life, she wanted 
us to begin to learn life by going to the public 
school. Every child in the city (above convent 
grades) was going to the public school. The 
training in the rough and tumble of life was 
good, especially as we were all old enough to 



44 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

know the evils to slmn; but whether with 
younger children in congested Eastern cities, 
where finely nurtured youngsters sit side by 
side with diseased children of European slums, 
the same training in rough and tumble would 
be good I am not prepared to say. In fact, 
where the numbers are great and the elements 
highly alien, I am frankly frightened of the 
whole mill-process of modern education. I 
don't think you can put the human soul in big 
job lots through an automatic mental sausage 
factory, and have a high average come out. 
You'll have an average all right, and a uni- 
form product; but where the numbers are 
great and the elements alien, you will have 
an average down to the mediocre, not up to 
the brilliant. 

The Danger Zone to us was not in big num- 
bers and alien elements. It was the mill 
process of education that had just begun at 
that time. In an effort to make collegiate edu- 
cation serve the purpose of entrance to second 
year university and first year medicine, sub- 
ject was piled on subject in a mental pyramid 
that threatened to topple from topheaviness. 
We were dosed with Latin and Greek and 
German and French and English grammar, 
and statistics and hydrostatics and mensura- 
tion, and algebra and Euclid, and physics and 



A HAPPY WOMAN 45 

chemistry and botany, and physiology and 
physical geography, and Roman and Grecian 
and English and American history, and English 
and American literature and English compo- 
sition and two or three courses of psychology, 
in all twenty-six pass subjects, the very perfec- 
tion of the mill process in education, which 
proceeds on the assumption of quantity, not 
quality; of grind, not growth; of sponge-like 
absorption, not development. No mind under 
the sun, much less a child's, could master all 
these subjects. Only half-baked educators 
would have attempted such a crazy curriculum. 
We were loaded with home work like beasts of 
burden. In such a cram, lessons became a 
process of hearing, not of teaching; and edu- 
cation a process of cram for a pass, not mas- 
tery of a subject. Examination time became 
a sort of horror ahead. In the June heat of 
midsummer we wrote as many as forty pages 
of foolscap each half day for tAvo weeks. What 
was the result? We slurred the subjects we 
didn't like and crammed a pass and acquired 
habits of slovenly thought. We knew the thing 
to be an impossibility, that not a teacher on 
the staff could have passed the whole twenty- 
six subjects; and when students went to ex- 
amination with whole pages of Cicero trans- 
lated inside their shirt sleeves, we didn't think 



46 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

it much crime, and didn't tell, especially as 
many of the sinners were grown men come in 
from the farm with only money enough for 
two meals a day trying to get ''a pass" into 
medicine or theology. Don't smile! The the- 
ologs were the worst cheats of all. They pre- 
tended they didn't. The meds. never did that. 
They cribhed openly, gloriously, unhlushingly. 
We ^'kids," as they called us juniors, used to 
pass shps to them by the mile through the 
slats at the backs of the desk — remember these 
were grown men of twenty-five and twenty- 
eight, living on one and two meals a day try- 
ing to get a ''hurry-up" pass. I wanted a 
' ' hurry-up ' ' pass, too. I knew what it felt like. 
I wanted desperately to earn at the earliest 
possible moment; but as I still hummed those 
prayers under the bed clothes at night, I didn't 
cheat. I was trying to play according to the 
rules of the game. Besides, I was an excellent 
cram, a prize sponge. I could memorize things 
as easily as I read and without an effort. That, 
probably, came from a long line of university 
forebears. I could take my 99 per cent, on 
the subjects I liked, and get through by the 
skin of my teeth at 37 per cent, on the subjects 
I disliked. My health had become so uncer- 
tain at this stage that I usually missed the 
spring and fall terms from colds that settled 



A HAPPY WOMAN 47 

on my lungs and simply paralyzed me ; so that 
I took three prizes in literature at this time 
without knowing that I had tried for them or 
that they had been offered. Any prize that I 
ever designedly tried for, I missed. Those I 
didn't want, came to me. Such a jade is Fate! 
So little should we care whether she smiles or 
frowns. So securely should we sit on the 
throne of happiness inside our own souls! I 
had finished collegiate work a year before I 
could enter the university or receive a diploma. 

And now for definite facts as to that Danger 
Zone ! I wish I could blazon them in fire across 
the face of the sky! Understand distinctly, 
our teachers were hale good fellows. Some 
of them are my best friends to this day. I 
never had a woman teacher; and therefore am 
no judge of the condemnation of the so-called 
feminine influence on youth at adolescence. 
What I am going to say is no condemnation 
of these teachers. They were victims as we 
were, of a mill process. Some of them have 
passed on to medicine and law and wealth and 
fame ; but the man, who did lis all most good, 
who implanted the love of poetry and beauty 
in us, who taught us to be thorough and prompt 
and on the nail, was a dreamer and will never 
know wealth. 

Look at that list of subjects! Which sub- 



48 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

ject added one jot, one tittle, one iota, of ef- 
ficiency for the job of life? You can count the 
subjects that helped in efficiency on the fingers 
of one hand. The rest were punk, rotten lum- 
ber in the waste spaces of brain room. 

Meantime, they sapped us of our youth; 
they sapped us of our strength; they sapped 
us of nights that ought to have been spent in 
rest and sheer glee. Fitness for living con- 
sists of more than bookish cram. It consists 
in knowledge of life. Which of the subjects 
gave us knowledge of life? Let me set down 
some facts about that class. 

A poor Norwegian, who had come in from 
the country and literally walked through every 
curriculum, died of brain fever just as he fin- 
ished. 

The two men who gave promise of being 
the most brilliant medical men died their first 
year as hospital interns after graduation. 
They had no strength for the risks of the dis- 
eases to which they were exposed. 

The man, who was our star classic and foot- 
ball player, is to-day a hopeless drunkard. He 
went from college so depleted of reserve 
strength that he could never work under stress 
without a stimulant. 

Our prize theological student went insane in 
Ms twenty-eighth year. 



A HAPPY WOMAN 49 

The man, who went from us to the big East- 
ern university and there won the scholarship 
that sent him abroad, contracted tuberculosis 
and died just as he took his doctor's degree in 
his tw^enty-fourth year. 

The w^oman, who went from us to a gold 
medal career in the East and from the East 
to Germany, I did not meet till fourteen years 
afterward when she was married and had a 
family. Her face struck me as sad and dis- 
satisfied with life, though I knew that she 
loved devotedly both her husband and her chil- 
dren. Later, she told me that the strain of 
those early days had given her such sleepless 
habits that she had been compelled to use a 
light drug. The drug had so completely 
destroyed the power of carrying consecutive 
thoughts in her mind that she could no longer 
read a verse of poetry or a page of history and 
know what it meant. She could not carry the 
thought of one line forsvard to another. 

Those happen to be the cases that I per- 
sonally and intimately knew out of a class of, 
say, a hundred, of whom a dozen were girls. 
For myself, it was then that I began the un- 
dermining that brought a smash of lungs at 
twenty and that left haliits of restless wake- 
fulness till four in the morning — habits that 
took me till I was twenty-six to overcome. 



60 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

The mill system put a premium on stolid 
stupidity. It wore the willing ones out and 
left the skulkers with fresh zest for life. That 
is why I sometimes think stupidity is more 
criminal than sin. 

But that is not the worst indictment of the 
Danger Zone. The habits you form from 
twelve to twenty you form for life. What hab- 
its were we forming? Habits of rush, crush, 
cram, instead of thorough mastery. 

But especially regarding women! The fact 
that a woman gives of her strength potentially 
and really to the creation of a new race does 
not necessarily imply that she is constitution- 
ally weakened thereby. Health statistics prove 
the opposite. Except in the actual creation of 
a new race, life insurance figures show that 
her chances are greater for long life than a 
man's. But here is the point in the Danger 
Zone to the girl during this crush, rush, cram 
period! Her brother goes camping by way of 
holidays, goes tramping, goes shooting, goes to 
the woods, kicks a football, plays baseball, 
spends four or six hours a day outside and two 
or three weeks a year in the wilds. How many 
hours a day does the average girl spend out- 
side? I leave the question unanswered. Is it 
any wonder she comes to her twenties with 
nerves ; he, to his twenties, with nerve 1 She 



A HAPPY WOMAN 61 

comes to the job of life peeved. lie comes to 
the job of life powerful. She is languid. He 
is alert. We blame sex for it all. Has sex 
anything to do with it at all? Isn't it another 
by-product of our fool-mill-system? That is 
my great indictment of the Danger Zone for 
the girl, who is to acquire efficiency for the job 
of life. 

There were compensations, however, in the 
raw crude new West to which we had come, in 
spite of half-baked educational theories, that 
loaded us like beasts of burden, with work 
when we should have played. There were com- 
pensations even in the general hard-upness. 
We were all alike poor. It was not a man-less 
world. There were ten men to one woman. I 
can imagine nothing worse for a girl than the 
ashen gray, ever narrowdng feminine existence 
of a world, where there are no men to jolt 
her out of herself — such an existence, for in- 
stance, as that of certain operatives and office 
hands in Europe, when the sexes are — I believe 
the word is — "segregated'^; as though God 
Ahnighty made a mistake in making both men 
and women ; and where as many as a thousand 
girls work year in and year out without ex- 
changing a word with any man but father or 
brother. An English girl actually told me that 



62 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

she had worked as copyist in an insurance of- 
fice for fifteen years without meeting a man in 
her work. And I can imagine nothing worse 
for boys than a gruff bass-voiced world where 
no women come. The unknown world ^^^.ll al- 
ways be peopled with imagination, fancy fig- 
ures, which may be good or ill, wise or foolish. 
(Some of the Saints have had a bad time of 
it, you know!) The best cure for a girl, crazy 
for men's attention, is to give her such a sur- 
feit of it that the novelty wears off and she 
acquires some discrimination, some power of 
choice and rejection, we'll say; and that, every 
girl in the West could have had at that period, 
unless she were such a fool that she reversed 
the process, when the man — wise fellow — exer- 
cised the power of discrimination and rejection. 
I have known of women who have heard of this 
feature of Western life, and come out from 
Europe hungry-eyed and yet gone back without 
any fool gudgeon on their string. Why? Be- 
cause the West does not go in for lassoing any- 
thing but cattle ; frankly, that is the only why 
I can answer. A man knows that a woman, 
who has to pursue men for either attention or 
a husband, has something so undesirable about 
her that men have not pursued her. The 
woman, who has a grouch at life because she 
is single, would have two grouches at life if 



'A HAPPY WOMAN 63 

she were double : she wears the sig"!! of her own 
damnation on her forehead. 

Then, life on the frontier West at that time 
had many features resembling life on the open 
meadows. There was no index expurgatorius. 
You saw things as they were; not glozed. It 
was a land, where people came without a past. 
That loosening of all ties to the handicap of a 
past has a curious effect on different natures. 
To the handicapped nature set suddenly free, 
it was the giving of wings for a future. To the 
base nature set free from the restraint of old 
home surroundings, it was like the sinking of 
a stone to the bottom of a cesspool. Men and 
women found the level of their intrinsic worth ; 
and found it with terrible swiftness. The preci- 
pices of life in a raw crude new land are un- 
fenced and unconcealed. You know w^here to 
shun them; or where to go over, if you are 
anxiously looking for a place to break your 
neck; but I don't think you confuse values as 
you do in an older land. Vice seems to walk 
uncloaked and brazen in a new country. Smug 
respectability hasn't yet wrapped whited gar- 
ments round sin; and the thing that you see 
isn't pleasant to contemplate. It has an ugly 
face that you shun ; and I do not think there is 
the same danger to youth as in older communi- 



54 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

ties where the same thing is concealed. When I 
say that Broadway in its widest open, un- 
lidded days could show nothing worse than two 
areas of that new boom city, and that the first 
society of the place was notorious on two con- 
tinents for its swift pace you will know what 
I mean. In fact, we threw out of the city by 
the scruff of the neck at that time a French 
count by name famous or infamous in his mar- 
riage with one of America's millionaire daugh- 
ters. There was a funny story connected with 
it. This French count, a cousin of the one who 
married into a railroad magnate's family, and 
a coterie of the same type had come out with 
the avowed aim of painting the West red with 
a new style of farming. They succeeded in 
their aim, and if one judges by results, most 
of their ranching must have been done with 
champagne. At first, the best homes in the 
city had been thrown open to the newcomers; 
but we had too many of that kind coming to 
the country not to recognize bounders and sol- 
diers of fortune. In a few months the French 
clique had been ostracized and had departed 
for parts unkno\\m, namely Ne^vport and New 
York, leaving mournful creditors behind in the 
West. When the press agents began with a 
flare of publicity on the international marriage, 
[what they had failed to accomplish in the 



A HAPPY WOMAN 55 

West, they had pulled off successfully in New 
York and Newport], an enterprising banker 
bought up the bad debts and departed for the 
East to collect. He stationed himself at the 
church door to catch the happy bridal party 
as they emerged. What was his disgust to see 
that though it was the same name and the same 
family, it was the wrong count. The real cul- 
prit was in the wedding procession, but he had 
not married the millions. The banker went 
home fourteen thousand dollars poorer. We 
saw all these things as youngsters, and knew 
what they meant. Perhaps it was part of the 
training to take life without blinking, and know 
things as they are. 

Vaguely I had had in mind during my school 
course, I suppose because university blood was 
in my veins C^by unseen hands are we bent 
and tortured most''), that I would hurry 
through all the education the West could give 
me; then by some magic wand, which God 
would wave (I have never found Him wave 
any wands at all but rather does He play an 
absolutely square game above board according 
to rules), by some magic would I get money 
enough to go off for a course in Europe 
to qualify for one of the professorships, which 
universities were then beginning to give 
women. Meantime, I was a year ahead of 



56 tTHE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

things, a year too young to get the diploma of 
admittance to college. 

If I had dreamed there was any way by 
which a woman could have earned her living 
out of doors, I never would have thought for 
a moment of teaching; but those were the days 
when half-baked educationalists superciliously 
referred to manual labor as off-caste and 
farmers as ^'clodhoppers.'' The lines of caste 
drawn between the different vocations that a 
woman could choose were harder and faster 
than the ancient fooleries of the East. Civil 
Service put you among the elect. Nursing was 
desirable and never hurt you socially. Office 
work, if it were a well known office, came about 
third. Teaching ranked about midway be- 
tween brains and hands. 

Joyfully j^keful — wasn't it? — when you look 
back on the various little step-ladders by which 
Western women who kicked the Chinese boots 
off their heads and their heels climbed tim- 
idly and fearfully up and out of cellars of 
despond to new big upper arenas of opportu- 
nity and freedom and service! At the bottom 
rung of the ladder, there was trampling of 
cruel little feet on the hands of those coming 
up below; but at the top of the ladder out on 
the big new arena of opportunity and freedom 
and service — will the same lines of caste re- 



A HAPPY WOMAN 67 

main drawn fast and hard? I think not. I 
think I see them rubbing out every day. The 
new service, tlie new freedom, the vista of op- 
portunities that have no bounding horizon are 
bringing about a curious new valuation of vo- 
cations. The women, who can produce things 
that stand for plus, whether babies or books, 
pictures or potatoes, happiness or hats, can 
command their own price in cash and joy in 
this world. This does not mean that there w^ill 
not always be distinctions, the ups, the half- 
way-ups, the downs, the no-goods, the preten- 
ders, the fit, the unfit and the feckless; but it 
does mean that the new day of women in a 
world arena has compelled new valuation. For 
instance, I know of women, they called them- 
selves ^' gentle'^ women, I trust they were, 
though I never found much gentleness in their 
judgments of other women, who pulled politi- 
cal wires and studied for civil service exami- 
nation, and almost broke their necks to get 
what they called "a government position,'^ 
w^here the beginners' salary never exceeded 
thirty-six dollars a month, and the highest sal- 
ary could never possibly be more than seventy- 
five dollars. They would have scorned, I hope 
the day will come when women will never blis- 
ter their tongues with scorn, and execrated the 
very thought of what they called ^'a shop girl's 



68 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

existence. '^ Yet, in that pioneer city, young- 
sters went into shops with hair in pigtails tied 
in a shoe string — went in at wages far below 
the much vaunted ^'minimum wage,'^ studied 
and fought and worked their way doggedly up 
till they became foreign buyers for big firms at 
salaries of from $5,000 to $7,000 a year, with 
two trips to Europe and all expenses paid. 

There has been a transmutation of values 
in spite of the lines of caste; and the woman 
still sitting inside the line of caste is the one 
with a curious vinegar w^onder as to what life 
is about. We may like it, or loathe it. The 
transition is here; and the transmutation of 
values is here ; and perhaps, some of us dream 
of a day when those in the new arena of service 
and freedom and opportunity will stand shoul- 
der to shoulder, an army of workers, with their 
faces to the light, and march shoulder to shoul- 
der to whatever dawn destiny may unroll. 

It was while turning over in my mind what 
to do that a letter came from a former senior 
classmate. That is the way life always is. We 
are turning over in our minds what we will to 
do ; and life gives us a little push on the shoul- 
der, or winks at us, or blinks at us, or beckons 
through an open door to nowhere; and in we 
sprawl, hit or miss, glad or sad, willy-nilly, 



A HAPPY WOMAN 59 

pursued by only one shunless shadow, our own 
personality, as blind to the future as a new- 
born baby. 

The friend was teaching a little country 
school at the very Back of Beyond, ten miles 
inside the outermost post of settlement. She 
was ill. I was under age, and could not get a 
diploma ; but by a fluke of the law, a substitute 
was permitted special arrangements. Would 
I substitute and finish her term from August 
2nd to December 23rd? Would I? The salary 
was fifty-five dollars a month. I didn't walk 
to get the permit from the authorities. My 
feet were winged. If this were Fate beckon- 
ing, I chased her ; and she seemed rosy hued as 
the wonderful prairie sunsets that set the 
whole sky in a riot of wine and fire. 

As I walked down the street to leave early 
on August the 1st — there were no street cars 
yet — I turned. My mother stood in the door, 
shading her eyes from the sunrise. I waved. 
She only lifted her other hand, and let it fall. 
I had a horrible suspicion that she was hid- 
ing tears. '^You were so young,'' she after- 
ward told me, ^'that I went upstairs and 
prayed for your safety! There w^as only one 
thing I was thankful for — it wasn't a big city 
where you were going." 



60 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

But of the millions of young girls, who do 
go to the big city, who must go to the big city 
or starve; whose prayers fend off the harpies 
and the hells 1 God f eedeth the young ravens ; 
but when these ask for bread, do they get a 
stone; for meat, and get a serpent? I never 
hear the vague prayers of a Sunday morning 
service ascend to the dome of a church roof 
in a big city, God forbid such vague and tenu- 
ous askings should ever pass a roof, but I 
think of the attic dwellers, and the tenement 
dwellers, and the back-hall-room dwellers, 
youth imprisoned in the city flat, feet enmeshed 
in an economic net, whose beings wither for 
lack of the spiritual sunlight and joy, which 
these pra^dng churches ought to be feeding 
out to them. 

At the station was a school friend with a 
bunch of sweet peas, quite as big as a tub — 
I have some of them yet pressed in those old 
Proverbs, that I tried to use for my pilot chart. 
She was a little girl, all dimples and violet eyes 
with a baby's wonder that life could require 
anything of her, that life could be cruel. She 
was the only one of the class who had not to 
turn out and work. We all adored her, but 
it was the kind of love you have for a child 
you must protect. She played the violin and 



A HAPPY WOMAN 61 

the piano wonderfully, let all the music of lier 
shrinking soul out at her finger tips; but she 
had been trained with the words ''I can*f 
upon her lips. She had been diligently, con- 
scientiously, persistently trained to the belief 
by a weak mother that because she was a girl 
life would require nothing of her; that being 
a girl was a physical disability under which 
she must sit down hopelessly; and "the wind 
would be tempered to the shorn lamb''; but 
that is just the point — the wind isn't. It is 
when the lamb is shorn that you can bet on the 
ivind cavorting itself like seven devils. Within 
a short time, the Panic was upon us like a hur- 
ricane, and every vestige of her father's for- 
tune was smashed in a wrecked bank. Utterly 
unqualified to confront Life, after ten years 
of struggling, she did the only thing that a 
woman untrained for Life can do, she took her 
defeat; and quietly died. Yet she was the fa- 
vored one of our class that year ; and sent me 
out on the trail of Life happy because I knew 
the fragrance of the great bunch of flowers 
typified the love of friends following me. 

Next to the message of the stars and the 
seas and the great wide spaces of unfenced 
nature; next to the glimpses of transfigura- 
tion that come to us in great human love and 



62 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

sorrow, I think that flower fragrance one of 
the best influences to keep our natures from 
brutalizing under the blows of necessity, from 
turning ashen gray in the fires that burn out 
our dross. 






A HAPPY WOMAN 63 



CHAPTER III 



ONLY A TEACHER 



Beautiful Plains they called the place, where 
I had gone to finish the term of my school 
friend; and beautiful, the memory will always 
remain with me, though the district lay at what 
was at that time the very Back of Beyond; 
exactly ten miles inside the very outermost 
posts of frontier settlement, where the check- 
er-board farms staked in with one strand of 
barb wire merged into the fenceless prairie. 
Settlers' shanties unpainted and raw, and for 
the most part consisting of only one or two 
rooms stood like the hub of a wheel in the cen- 
ter of a prairie bounded by the unbroken circle 
of the sky-line. If you could see the smoke of 
a neighbor's chimney, or rather of the neigh- 
bor's stovepipe sticking up through the slant 
shanty roof, like the funnel of a ship at sea 
you were regarded as fortunate, being in such 
a thickly populated settlement. 

Consider the influence of such isolation in 
forcing people to be independent and self-de- 



64 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

pendent and self-sufficient and resourceful! I 
sometimes think that influence was a prime 
factor in the buoyant stick-at-nothing forceful 
Spirit of the West! No use wailing! Nobody 
ever heard wails. You might drown yourself 
in a slough with tears of self-pity. There was 
nobody there to witness the drowning; and if 
you had any rebound in your make-up, you 
presently dried the tears and set yourself to 
making the best of things. It wasn't a world 
for weaklings. The misfits and the unfits and 
the wallers fell and perished by the way; or 
else circumstances forced them to become fit, 
a sort of enforced conversion, rebirth and re- 
generation, though not catalogued in religious 
experiences. 

It was twenty miles to a doctor, twenty miles 
to a railway, seven to a church, over a horizon 
that rolled level as the sea, where the settlers' 
tented wagon came up over the offing like a 
sail. Indians with otter skins tied to the ends 
of their long braids went loping past the 
barbed wire fences, which they hated, to join 
the buffalo hunters on the plains to the North; 
and in the autumn long lines of ox carts, built 
without a nail or a steel rim, went creaking 
over the winding trails followed by cayuse 
ponies and mongrel packs of dogs, fat squaws 
asquat on buffalo robes and pemmican sacks in 



A HAPPY WOMAN 66 

the carts, papooses in moss bags dangling from 
saddle pommels, g>T3sy urchins with long hair 
streaming, racing the ponies round the carts. 
On the sloughs that lay in the trough of the 
rolling prairie ducks and wild geese flackered 
in flocks you could not count. Pioneers have 
always been accused of being great yarn spin- 
ners ; but the wildest yarn could not exaggerate 
the abundance of game on the prairie in those 
years. I have seen the prairie chickens so tame 
that the young would not rise out of your way, 
as they crossed your trail. If you knew where 
to look in the early mornings, you could see 
whole flocks of these ridiculously pompous 
little birds engaged in their morning spree or 
dance. Man seems to do his skylarking at 
night. The prairie chickens hold their society 
functions by dawn. I do not think they are 
sex-dances as some so-called moralists regard 
all dances; for these little feathered dandies 
will puff out their wattles like a full blown 
orange, and fan their vain little tails, and 
wave their neck ruffs, and prance and dance 
and strut and fight sham battles and two-step 
and waltz and bow and bob — for all the world 
like any fool-humans, just as readily when 
ladies are not present as when they are. Occa- 
sionally, as you came down into a ravine, you 
would see a coyote skulk off looking back over 



66 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

his wolf tail at you ; and at nightfall, if you sat 
very still, you would see the young fawns steal 
shyly out of the poplar thicket with their black 
glassy eyes alert, sniffing right and left as they 
ran for the water pool on little feet that did 
not seem to touch earth at all. 

It wasn't a world where you talked freedom 
and spouted art and quoted poetry. It was a 
crude, rude, raw, new world, where you lived 
and moved and had your being in all three, 
without knowing it; and I never saw the wind 
billowing over the waist-high boundless fields 
of wheat as shining a gold as a setting sun, 
touching the heavy headed grain with invisible 
feet, but I waited half expectant for some filmy 
spirit form to take shape, the tutelary Goddess 
of the West, beckoning us to a wonderful des- 
tiny. When you set out in the morning for the 
long walk over the prairie, the cobwebs and 
dew lay on the grass in jewels; and the ozone 
of the washed air went to your head like fine 
clarified wdne. I did not know it till long after- 
wards when I sat down in the Tate Gallery, 
London, to study out the wizardry of Turner's 
pictures in light and color and tone ; but it was 
really a case of atmospheric stimulant, a sort 
of spirit intoxication with the zest of life. The 
ozone bit into your lethargic blood and muscles 
and lungs. Life pulsed at the leap. You 



A HAPPY WOMAN 67 

wanted to breathe deep, to walk hard, to run, 
to sing with the tingling joy of being alive ; of 
being alive every atom of you. If light be some 
finest force permeating ether, who can say that 
on those plains, which are oceans of intensest 
clearest light, some subtle new force does not 
enter blood and brain? Of course, eyes 
blinded with tears, tears of pity for self, will 
not see the clearest light; and there were a 
good many people in the West at that time, 
who hung such veils between themselves and 
the gladness of life around them. 

The days at that Back of Beyond are among 
my happiest memories; so happy that I can 
never understand the disappointment, the dis- 
illusionment, the bitterness of the man or 
woman of middle life, who can refer to self as 
**only a teacher.'* Wouldn't the woman, who 
calls herself **only a teacher'* call herself 
**only a this", or ^'a that" in any vocation un- 
der the sun? Isn't she, as a matter of fact, 
confessing herself a this or a that kind of per- 
son? If she wants to make her life stand for 
plus, to add to the sum total of social service, 
to stand for something besides a ministering to 
her own infinitesimally small ego; if she real- 
izes there is only one road to happiness and 
that is a royal one defined by the royal motto 
of *^I serve," what better scope than in many 



68 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

of these dull God-forsaken settlements, where 
she teaches kiddies the game of life by playing 
them up to a sturdy manhood and staunch 
womanhood? When I think about some of 
those boy and girl teachers out on the fron- 
tier, ''bach'ing" it many of them in 10 by 12 
shanties, riding to and from school on easy 
loping bronchos, earning a little but saving 
some, and living much; and when I think of 
the career-chasers of the city attics, the phan- 
tom followers of a futile ambition living on a 
crust for the sake of a future, which they can 
never realize, I know which of the two I con- 
sider to be drinking the wine of life ; and which 
the lees. 

I was barely sixteen, and wore short skirts, 
and a braid down my back; but I felt a great 
deal older than the most women of forty will ac- 
knowledge. I did not know until afterwards 
that my friend and her predecessor had both 
been "run out" of this school, which consisted 
of about six little girls under ten years of age, 
and twenty rough and tumble husky boys rang- 
ing from twelve to nineteen ; and I confess my 
sympathies were all with the boys. It was 
pretty trying on those sturdy frontier folk, 
who daily bucked the hardships of life, to have 
such anaemic tallow city snips as we were sent 



i 



A HAPPY WOMAN 69 

out to teach half -grown follows. When I came 
up to the school-house, they were all sitting 
round the pump digging their bare toes in and 
out of the clay. Such a kill-joy, blank-of-zip 
bunch of faces I had never seen. Because 
there didn't seem anything else to do I shook 
hands all round; and, because that seemed an 
unexpected performance, the biggest boys 
grinned. Then, we all went inside. I set the 
younger ones buzzing over work like bumble 
bees; then, quite contrary to all rules of pro- 
priety, sat down on the front desk and quietly 
studied the faces. I didn't tell them that I 
would be their friend, and that I would expect 
them to be my friends, and that we would all 
start fresh; and such mush. If you want to 
bluff, try it on grown-ups, who have deceived 
so often themselves that they are easily de- 
ceived; but don't try it on youngsters, who 
have the unthinking instincts of the animal or 
the ant, and size you before you utter a word. 
^*You fellows are so much older than I ex- 
pected that most of you will not be at school 
more than tw^o or three terms, '^ I began. 
** Suppose you tell me exactly what you are 
weakest in, what you need most, how long you 
will be here, then we'll put our hardest licks 
on what you need most in the shortest time 
possible. I don't want a chump in this school. 



70 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

If any fellow is going to make a nuisance of 
himself, I want him to get out before he begins ; 
or I'll ask the others to throw him out. I'll 
help you right up to the hilt ; but I want every 
boy here to make things hum. You can have 
all the fun you like. We're going to have the 
bestest good time that ever happened till 
Christmas ; but we don't want any fools. Now, 
come on and let us plan out how we can pack 
in the most in the shortest possible time." 

A funny look of coming alive had risen 
slowly to those boys' faces like an edge of light 
coming on a shadow in dark water; and they 
each told me perfectly frankly what their spe- 
cial difficulties were and how short a time they 
could spare to school. In an hour we had our 
groups arranged for ' * speeding up, team work, 
stepping together," as they described it; and 
I deliberately went out to take a look at 
grounds and surroundings, in order to leave 
them alone, to make them feel they were run- 
ning that establishment and that I wasn't. I 
don't think the word ''honor" was ever men- 
tioned in that school. I wanted them to live 
honor, not palaver about it; and I am quite 
sure if any boy had misbehaved, the big fel- 
lows would have broken his head and thrown 
him out of the window. 



A HAPPY WOMAN 71 

It wasn't a pleasant surprise that I found 
on the walls of the school porch. Is there any 
])lace in life outside the sacred precincts of 
home where the satyr faces will not leer from 
the dark if you let them; lust, the w^olf, with 
the lips drawm back showing fangs, familiar 
but sinister, snarling a menace unless you 
strike? Where do such rhymes come from? 
What code of the underw^orld passes them on 
to the very Back of Beyond? I noticed there 
was not a sign of the playground ever being 
used. That fact and the rhymes on the wall of 
the school porch told me a lot. These boys 
were getting a wrong slant because there w^as 
nobody to give them a right slant. They were 
wallowing in mud puddles, because nobody had 
taught them it is much better fun to flounder 
in clean pools of thought. Weeds were coming 
up solely because nobody had ever taken the 
trouble to see that good seeds w^ere planted. 

Our mother had never w^arned us against 
evil deeds. She had warned us against evil 
thoughts. If we took care of our thoughts and 
let nothing pollute them, she had always said, 
our w^ords and deeds w^ould take care of them- 
selves, and old Solomon, my pilot chart, be- 
cause of his manifold and variegated personal 
experiences ought to know ; he had been great 
on ^'keeping the heart with all diligence.'* 



72 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

You can treat what is unclean in tliree 
ways. You can quarantine it and let it fester. 
That is the polite conventional way: shut the 
lid down; keep the door tight on bad odor; 
never mention the presence except in a whis- 
per. Or you can use a surgeon's knife on the 
fester, and potash and soft soap and a scrub- 
bing brush all round. That is the moral re- 
form way, and very effective till the next 
leprous case comes along. Or you can make a 
specialty of keen, clean, crystal morning air, 
sunshine and zest, light and laughter, on the 
principle of prevention being the best cure. 
Satyr shadows don't thrive in clean clear-cut 
sunshine. Innuendo is their language; a leer, 
their laugh; and half lights, their stage. 
Looking over the heads of these raw big husky 
boys from the door of the defiled porch, I de- 
cided I'd try sunshine and zest as the best dis- 
infectants of that situation. 

^'Do you boys never by any chance play 
games in this school?" I asked the group 
standing round the pump at morning recess. 

A boy of fourteen with stringy hair stick- 
ing up through a roofless straw hat, with ugly 
freckles, and bare feet poking out of a man's 
over long duck pants, answered: ^'Nunk! We 
never do an 'thing in this here school. There 



A HAPPY WOMAN 7S 

ain't no games, nobody here knows how t' phiy ; 
and there ain't nobody t' learn us how." 

I was barely sixteen; and it is to the ever- 
lasting credit of male chivalry that those boys 
did not burst on the spot; for what I answered 
in all seriousness was this: "Good gracious, 
when I was young, we used to play cricket and 
baseball and stone on the rock and lacrosse 
and football and knife. Can't any of you make 
or raise a bat? Haven't any of you a good 
hard ball at home?" 

Two of the boys said they would carve out 
a couple of basswood bats that very night, and 
another boy said he would bring a ball; but 
they wanted to know who would teach them. 

"You come an hour early to-morrow morn- 
ing and I'll show you who will teach you," I 
promised. 

Y^ou could have heard a pin fall in that 
school for the rest of the day. They stole shy 
looks from their books as if I had been a new 
specimen escaped from some zoo. I was. I 
had escaped from those open meadows of the 
long ago. If I had not had the training of 
nature in the open, which never blinks a fact, 
I would not have known how to deal with the 
situation. Like many an inexperienced and 
ignorant youngster plunged suddenly and vio- 



74 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

lently into life, sunshine and shadow and satyr 
faces in the shadow, I might not have had the 
knowledge to discern between a leer and a 
laugh, between lust and love, between wit and 
smut. 

As I said good-night going home that night, 
a thought struck me. I called back two of the 
biggest boys, who were, I know now, the cul- 
prits. 

**Say, you fellows, before I teach you the 
games to-morrow, give and take, you know, I 
want you to do something. I want you big 
boys to come before these little girls arrive. 
Bring soap and rags, and wash every one of 
these rotten dirty rh}Tnes off the porch ! Then, 
if anybody ever writes such things on this 
school again, I am going to turn you big fel- 
lows loose on him; and you can thrash him till 
he can't sit for a week." 

They did not answer except a very red-faced 
^'good-nighf ; but when I came in the morning 
to give them their first lesson in cricket, you 
could not have found a chalk or pencil mark on 
that school the size of a pin. That night I 
could not sleep for the horror of those rlnniies, 
and what they implied of the menace to life ; so 
I reached over to the bunch of sweet peas and 
tackled old Solomon, who admonished to keep ^ 



A HAPPY WOMAN 75 

the ** heart with all diligence; for out of it pro- 
ceeded the issues of life." 

We drove in ^\'ickets for cricket, and laid out 
the diamond for baseball; and later, when the 
snow came, found somewhere in the district an 
old football. I did not demonstrate the how, 
but I taught them the rules of the game, and I 
trust the rules of a much bigger game, w^hich 
they would play later in life. Then I left them 
to manage their sports, themselves, with just 
one proviso, that they play fair and square and 
above board always, and if there were any dis- 
pute, they would abide by the vote of majority 
rule. I think those boys henceforth counted 
the minutes to every recess and noon-hour ; and 
it was an understood thing — no work, no play. 
Always heretofore, the government allowance 
to that school had dropped after November 1st 
owing to the drop in attendance of younger 
children. We got together one noon hour and 
discussed why it would not be possible for the 
big fellow^s to knock up jumper sleighs and in 
a regular circuit drive the little ones to and 
from school. The boys who hadn't sleighs 
volunteered to build a stable; and they built 
that stable of sod and thatch roof without one 
w^ord of suggestion from me; so that the at- 
tendance and the government allowance did not 
drop off for the whole term. 



76 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

We were all too poor for a Christmas tree 
to close the session; but everybody brought 
sugar, and we finished off with a taffy pull that 
was the nearest approach to a sugaring off in 
the maple woods that the West could know. 
One boy, who had just come to the frontier 
from the slums of an Eastern city, I remember, 
grabbed the whole of the first panful of taffy 
and ran without a smile, gorging himself hog- 
gishly. 

**He don't know no better," declared one of 
the big fellows, watching reflectively. "You see 
he ain't played with our boys, and he can't 
know. ' ' 

I trust you catch the fine point in that re- 
mark. It was the play that had taught our 
boys the rules of the game, to be fair and 
square and above board. They let him have 
that panful because he so very plainly had 
never had anything like it before. Then, they 
fell on him and telescoped him through a snow 
drift. 

Only once were the rules of the game ever 
violated, only once did we come to the edge of 
what might have been both disagreeable and 
tragic. It was out in the stable. One boy of 
19 or thereabouts said something he shouldn't 
— they never told me what ; and a youngster of 



A HAPPY WOMAN 77 

14 ran and stabbed at him with a pitchfork. 
The big boys sprang between. Then, when it 
was all quieted down, they came and told me 
what they thought I ought to know. I said: 
''Send those boys in"; and I called school. 
They all came shuffling in very silent and hor- 
ribly ashamed that such a thing could have 
come at the end of the happiest term that dis- 
trict had ever known. There w^as the kind of 
silence that makes you tingle, not from physical 
fear, but from spiritual apprehension that 
some ideal you treasure is going to crumble 
into sawdust or clay; that the beautiful is 
going to fall from its pedestal into some gutter 
of ugly meanness. 

*'I don't w^ant to know what you quarreled 
about," and I am sorry to say my voice trem- 
bled, not from fear, but disappointment. ''I 
don't know, and I'd despise you if you w^re 
such mean tattletales as to come telling. One 
was to blame more than the other, of course; 
but you are both to blame. You have let some- 
thing happen that has hurt the spirit of the 
school, that has hurt every one of us, that 
makes things different so w^e can't trust one 
another. If we are willing to let by-gones be 
by-gones, to forget, to wash the slate clean, 
you should be willing. If you are manly 
enough to cut this all out and never to men- 



78 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

tion it again even in your thouglits, if you are 
black ashamed of what you have done, get up 
and shake hands before this class; and never 
mention it again; and we'll never mention it 
again.'' Not a youngster looked up to see. 
There were audible snuffles from the boy with 
a handkerchief; and the big fellow's tears were 
slopping down both cheeks, but he had no hand- 
kerchief. If those two boys had been racing 
for a silver cup, they could not have got out 
of their seats quicker to reach the front, where 
it was a contest w^ho would extend his hand 
foremost. So the tempest blew over; and I 
think we were all proud of those two boys in a 
way that must have stiffened their backbones. 

Once long after, when I was back in the 
grind of city work, one of my predecessors, not 
my school friend but another, asked me a ques- 
tion that I have never been able to answer be- 
cause I have never been able to understajid the 
terms in w^hich the question was put and I have 
never been able to put the answer in terms that 
the questioner would understand. 

''But tell me," she said, *Svhen those boys 
were so much your own age and older, how did 
you keep them from getting on sort of familiar 
terms with you? I don't see how you kept 
those biggest boys from proposing to you." 



A HAPrY WOMAN 79 

I simply could not answer that question. It 
was such a revelation of a wrong attitude to 
life in the world arena. A wonum, who flaunts 
sex in the world arena, may begin as a fool: 
she will end as a tragedy. I was thinking of 
my mother's careful training; sex is a red light 
that draws the danger that it dreads; woman- 
hood is a white light that lures the love it 
gives; and between the two is a chasm wider 
than between heaven and hell. 

Was it worth while — this making of a little 
I comedy of joy and service out of a five months' 
substitute job in a tiny frontier school? I can 
J only answer: it was worth while to me; and 
[every time I have made self the aim rather 
than service, I have tripped up both feet and 
come a cropper, though the world might be 
dubbing me successful. 

Taking the train home the day before Christ- 
mas, I encountered half a dozen class friends 
coming in from the same kind of work. One 
was earning money to go abroad for voice cul- 
ture; another, to put himself through law; a 
third was a medical student coming in from 
*' killing patients" as we told him. There was 
no pullman. We were thankful in those days 
if the transcontinental came in within fifty 
hours of schedule time. In the confusion of 



80 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

getting ourselves located in tlie day coacli amid 
a crush of holiday travelers, just for a second, 
I fancied I caught a glimpse through the win- 
dow of some of the big boys from the Beautiful 
Plains district running toward the mail car; 
but I thought nothing of it till next morning, 
Christmas Day, when in bed at home the mail 
was brought up. There was the usual bundle 
of cards and presents. I opened one parcel 
post-marked at the railway station where I had 
come in from the country. It was a little old- 
fashioned small Bible, no name on the fly leaf, 
but tucked in front was a sheet of note paper 
on w^hich were written the words — ' ' From your 
unknown grateful friend." It had cost a dol- 
lar, the hurried donor had not had time to 
erase the price ; but a dollar in those days was 
as big as a thousand to-day; and the spirit be- 
hind the words could not be measured in price. 

Though I still devoured old Solomon as a 
pilot chart to steer safely through the rocks of 
life, I had come to know that his quid pro quo, 
Ms creed of tit-for-tat, play-this-for-that — , 
would have to give place to the higher Christ- 1 
ideal of giving the best in you without hope of 
other reward than the zest of life, though you 
might be crucified for the best service you could 
give; and though I still besieged God fero- 



J 



A HAPPY WOMAN 81 

ciously for things I wanted and didn't get, my 
best enemy would never have accused me of be- 
ing religious. Yet that Bible had come from a 
rough crude youth in the raw and in the making, 
as the embodiment of the most delicate tribute 
he knew how to offer; and it gave a parting 
glamour to the memory of Beautiful Plains 
that lingers to this day. I don 't know whether 
you catch through all this how life began as 
something more than a job for so much per 
diem; how all the beauty and sweetness and 
zest of it had nothing to do with pay at all. 

My little friend, who gave the sweet peas, 
was terribly anxious at this period lest I be- 
come what she called ^^only a teacher." I 
don't know what she meant by that. I don't 
think she knew herself, unless it was a gradual 
degeneration to a drab-gray narrowing exist- 
ence on a joyless treadmill ; but if she had been 
out in the rough and tumble of life on the fron- 
tier she would have had no fear of a drab-gray 
treadmill life. There were Saturdays when 
whole wagon-loads of us went duck shooting in 
the northern swamps, where the reeds grew 
higher than your horses' heads and you could 
keep your compass only by the far land-mark 
of some huge bonfire, where farmers were 
burning their chaff and straw. Ducks flack- 



82 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

ered over-liead low enough for you to hit them 
with your whip ; and the wild geese held noisy 
confabulations in the stubble fields; and some- 
times when you went crashing through the dry 
reeds back to dinner camp, something russet 
brown like the withered sedges would leap 
across your path on winged feet to go bound- 
ing out of sight before you got your senses, — 
just a flash of the laid-back horns; and you 
knew you had come on a moose. Driving home 
by moonlight, the silvered fenceless prairies 
took eerie spectral form. There was a scene 
shifting of ghosts. You heard the coyotes 
howl, or the foxes bark, bark, bark, sharp and 
clear; and afar on the crest of a ravine you 
could see the tepee tips of an Indian camp, the 
fires flickering in front of the tent-flaps, dogs 
and hobbled ponies and queerly clad forms 
shifting dark against the fire. Always these 
ghost forms were on the North and the West. 
You never saw them move on the South and 
East. The stars pricked through the frosted 
air in diamond points ; and against the sky above 
the settlements flamed the billowing red clouds 
of the burning chaff piles, a sort of incense to 
the Spirit of the West. Or when the fire got 
into the reeds of the swamps, the whole sky 
line would be a mass of angry flame ; and if the 
wind shifted, every man and woman of the 



A HAPPY WOMAN 83 

countryside got out on the lire line to beat 
back the stealthy snaky red thing that came 
creeping and forking toward the year's crops. 
If the drab-gray cataracts have not grown over 
our eyes, is there anything more beautiful and 
heroic than just the commonplace life of the 
commonplace day hallowed by our everyday 
commonplace loves? A whole bookful could be 
written on the heroism of that frontier life on 
the plains; and it would not consist of shoot- 
ing-togs and men in buckskin. Oftener it was 
the quiet heroism of some gently nurtured 
woman keeping watch and guard alone in a 
prairie shack with the blizzard rampant out- 
side; or of some little foreign mother saving 
her children in a swamp under wet blankets till 
the prairie fire had passed. 

Winter set in very early that year, and a 
blizzard memorable yet on the plains swept 
from the Saskatchewan to the Missouri. With 
us, it broke from a heavy dull lead sky that had 
been ominously still for two days, before day- 
break one mid-week morning; but farther 
South, it was not raging in full force till late 
in the afternoon, when school children were 
setting out for home. I had seen plenty of 
storms in the city, when not a vehicle would 
stir out for a couple of days ; but the walls of 



84 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

houses along the streets broke the force of the 
wind in town; and none of us ever stayed in 
for a storm. As the days shortened, the fam- 
ily where I boarded would place the breakfast 
on the table the night before and leave a very 
handy hired man to fry ham and eggs and have 
them on the table before three of us tumbled 
down stairs in haste to swallow our breakfasts 
and hurry off for school in a jumper sleigh. 
This morning I felt the house rocking to the 
wind ; and there was a peculiar long low whin- 
ing moan to the storm. Barefooted and still 
in my nightdress I looked out through the 
frosted window, rubbing a little clearing in one 
corner of the pane; snow was driving fine as 
pepper and salt; and the drifts were just be- 
ginning to puff up in little whiffs of white 
smoke. I suddenly recalled that the boy, who 
opened the school, lived five miles away. If 
the storm grew worse, he might not come, oi 
might be late; and there was one little girl, 
who had no sleigh and sometimes got a chance 
ride and sometimes didn't; and she was so reg- 
ular in her attendance you could be sure she 
would come through fire or water. What ii 
that youngster came; and the boy had not ar- 
rived to open the school? The prairie was 
literally dotted with tragedies from just suet 
simple mischances. Only the year before, £ 



A HAPPY W0:MAN 85 

woman and her boy had been frozen to death 
trying to reach a neighbor's shanty to obtain 
aid for a sick man. By this time, I was dressed 
and downstairs. Neither of the children of the 
house had risen. It was half-past eight and 
there was no jumper sleigh at the door. If I 
had lived longer on the prairie, I would have 
known that neither diamonds nor rubies could 
tempt a true plainsman out of doors in a bliz- 
zard ; but I did not know this, and kept think- 
ing of that little girl. I had sense enough to 
run back upstairs and cast off all impediments 
in the way of superfluous skirts, and to draw 
on an extra pair of waist high close-knit tights. 
Then I put on a pair of heavy rubber wading 
boots ; and wore, as nearly all Westerners wore, 
a coon coat buttoned right to the eyes with 
elbow gauntlets and a wedge cap doT\Ti over 
ears. Eunning dowmstairs I unbolted the front 
door and was off. 

The family told me afterwards that they 
never dreamed any human being could be so 
foolish as to dare a bad blizzard, the very dogs 
and coyotes knew better ; but you see the young 
girl didn't; and that, too, is typical of the 
young girl wage-earner's attitude to life. In 
sheer ignorance of facts, mistaking her o^^^l 
headstrong determination for the favor of God, 



86 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

believing that good intentions are a Jacob's 
ladder to angel deeds instead of a well-paved 
path to a certain unspecified pit your young 
girl wage-earner rushes headlong into dangers 
that the oldest campaigner would not touch for 
love or money. 

The storm caught me and nearly lifted me 
off my feet. It was fun at first. The wind 
pumped the lethargy out of the lungs like a bel- 
lows, and the blood went racing, and the nerves 
tingling, and you did not walk on earth at all, 
but on air, ^\dth an intoxication of sheer youth 
sizzling in your brain that set you humming 
and singing. I was pretty sure I could not get 
lost; for barbed mre lined both sides of the 
road for the first mile. Then there was a diag- 
onal cut across open prairie for, perhaps, a 
quarter of a mile; but you could not see the 
fence on either side ; and I presently came to a 
dead stop, pulling with all my force against the 
wind, bent almost over, and gaining not a foot 
against the force of the white hurricane. I was 
breathless, hot and suddenly most fearfully 
tired, a sleepy tired. I turned my back to tlie 
storm for a minute to get a breath, and felt 
through the white howling funnel of air in a 
cyclone of fine frosty particles that stung like 
whip lashes or salt to the post of the barbed 



A HAPPY WOMAN 87 

wire fence on the right. I hung to this with 
my back to the wind till I got a breath, and be- 
came aware that my toes were stinging and 
numbing. I knew l)y this that I ought not to 
have come out ; but I kept thinking of that little 
girl, she was such an ill-favored naughty find- 
me-in-the-wrong-place little monkey too, it 
would be just like her to be huddled up on the 
doorsteps of the schoolhouse, dead. I loosened 
my collar to get a breath, turned, faced the 
storm and beat ahead. This time, I came to a 
stop only four or five fence posts farther on; 
and I didn't want to sleep, oh no, you never 
want to sleep in the frost death, but I did most 
terribly want to sit down to rest for one min- 
ute, for only one minute. Feet didn't sting any 
more, but the wind had beaten my lungs till 
they felt raw with pain; and each breath felt 
as if your throat had swollen up and you 
hadn't room, as if you couldn't get a clean 
clear sort of water-drink satisfying breath. I 
know now it is the feeling a patient has under 
an anesthetic before the last drop into the dark 
of unconsciousness. It was the dull, sort of 
dead pain in my feet as if they didn't belong 
to me that warned me what the sleep exhaus- 
tion meant, what the desire to sit dowTi for 
only one second's rest meant. I have known 
frontiersmen at this stage to beat a companion 



88 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

up with fists, to slap him across the face to 
make him go on; so I turned, and bowed my 
head to the storm, and ran again with feet that 
felt like clumps of clo^vnishness ; but when I 
pulled up at the next fence-post for a breath, 
I knew I was far past half way; and I didn't 
let myself rest so long, and I rested oftener. 

The last lap of the race against the storm, 
it came to the point where I had strength to 
spurt only from post to post. You didn't sink 
through the drifts — they were packed hard as 
earth — you skimmed up over them like a swim- 
mer breasting billows, then the prairie between 
would be blown bare to earth ; then you would 
clamber a rolling drift high as the fence top; 
and the storm would catch you and hurl you 
down in a cataract of snow. At the last post, 
I tried to face forward and get the exact loca- 
tion of the school in my head for the final spurt 
across the open prairie. The air ahead was 
one white shrieking Walpurgis of blizzard 
demons; they moaned; they screamed; they 
laughed; they ran up and down a gamut of 
fiendish glee, wailing off into a moan as the 
wind lulled for a fresh burst ; and through the 
white tornado I saw ahead a dark form, then 
the drifts again in billows that rocked the 
earth; and stamping my feet to try and bring 
them alive with a weight of sleep like lead 



A HAPPY WOMAN 89 

above both eyes, and lungs so sore I felt as if 
they would bleed, I broke at a lame run across 
the open prairie, when there was neither fence 
post to hold me up nor wire to keep me on the 
trail. This last quarter mile was the worst 
danger; but two things helped me; I got my 
back to the North- West wind; and I have al- 
ways had a kind of sure-footed instinct finding 
my way in the dark; but I had not a breath. 
Both feet were dead. The leaden sleep above 
my eyes had a trip-hammer beneath beating in 
my temples — I suppose, exhausted heart ac- 
tion — and the white squall was beginning to 
swim black ; and I ran like one falling. I did, 
in fact, fall with a slamming thud right into 
the school porch; and there was no little rat 
of a freckle-faced girl lying huddled up dead 
as I had feared. The drifts had blown into 
the porch high as the door lock. I kicked 
through them. Thank God, no youngster's 
body lay under! I ran all round the school, 
and hallooed through the storm! Not a pupil 
had come. There wasn't a track to the sod 
stable. I did not wait to unlock the door. I 
sprang at it with all my might on my dead feet 
and burst it in. The schoolroom was blue 
white with frost and snow that had driven 
through the window sashes. Of course, there 
was no fire on. I could not wait to gather 



90 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

wood. I seized the school books on my o^\m 
desk and every book, paper and scribbler in 
sight, and dumped them into the big box stove, 
and set a fire roaring. Then I jerked off those 
rubber wading boots, the spurt of the last 
quarter mile run had brought my feet alive all 
right. There was no mistaking they belonged 
to me, they belonged to me to the very roof of 
my head with sensations something between 
inflammatory rheumatism and a toothache get- 
ting up speed. If I had been in a house the 
pain was so acute that I am sure I would have 
plunged my feet into warm water to get relief, 
and so probably lamed myself for six months ; 
but, as there was no hot water, I did the only 
thing possible, I cut the over stockings off at 
the feet, and ^\dth a fur gauntlet rubbed snow 
against the under stocking. This prevented a 
break or burn of the flesh, which so often leads 
to gangrene and blood poisoning from bad 
freezings, then, when the pain grew too sharp 
to be endured, I got up and danced and 
pounded my feet and hurled good wholesome 
lively maledictions at the climate, w^here ^'it's 
cold but you don 't feel it, ' ' which was the very 
best possible thing to get life back into dead 
feet. It was midday before I had myself and 
the school properly thaw^ed out ; and I made up 



A HAPPY WOMAN 91 

my mind that if I had to sleep in that school a 
week, I would not go back through that storm. 

Back at the farmhouse, the people were fran- 
tic with anxiety. They had been out the night 
before and had slept late that morning. They 
did not discover that I had gone till the hired 
man came in from the barns. He foUo^ved 
down the lane as far as the road, then rightly 
concluded that if I had '^got through, '^ as he 
expressed it, I would be safely in by that time ; 
if I hadn't, I would be too deep under the 
drifts to be found. The blizzard raged until 
five that night, then fell like a spent fury, with 
surly sharp whistlings and shrill complainings, 
and little tossings of wisps of curling drifts. 
By six o'clock the moon w^as up and we were 
in for one of those clear, sharp, hard, forty- 
below-zero nights that nearly always follow a 
bad blizzard. I looked out from the school 
door. I was hungry; and I could see the smoke 
of the farmhouse curling low and purple on 
the offing like the funnel of a ship at sea. 
There wasn't a sign of the barbed w4re fence. 
It had been buried feet deep under the drifts. 
A coyote came up to the crest of a snow hillock 
and howled mournfully at the silver sickle rim 
of the cold moon. How do they know, those sin- 
ister bandits of the prairie, always to come out 



92 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

and seek the dead after a storm! That settled 
it, I was going home. Getting hold of a 
*^ shinny'^ stick (we call them *' hockey'' sticks 
to-day) I set off over the drifts. I remember 
letting a halloo out that sent the coyote skulk- 
ing; but I have no doubt he ran abreast of me 
on the other side of the fence drift all the way 
home. The drifts were hard packed as ice, 
you could glissade down the long slopes of 
them ; but I followed their crests over the tops 
of the fence posts. My feet were aching but 
no longer painful. Half way home, I met the 
farm family come out to seek me. They had a 
funny look on their faces, half contempt, half 
admiration; as if I were a fool but not a half 
bad one. 

^'What did you do it for?" demanded the 
kind Irish mother, her buxom arms akimbo on 
her hips. 

*^I was afraid some of those poor kids that 
hadn't jumpers would be there," I apologized. 

She rubbed her nose so vigorously back and 
forward on her fur sleeve that I thought she 
would wrench it off. 

^^Then I guess it's like Paddy when he ups 
and dies. We'll forgive you because you won't 
do it again." 

They treated me to a great deal of rough 
cordial tenderness that night, of which I did 



A HAPPY WOMAN 93 

not in the least understand the reason. I heard 
*' Johnnie," the hired man, confide to his boss 
that "that kid was a corker, but she was so 
dod-gasted green she'd better go home to her 
mawh." When I sent in returns for the gov- 
ernment grant including that day, I had ac- 
tually to prove that I had opened school. As 
the treasurer was a crusty penurious old fel- 
low suspected of pocketing '^otf day'' allow- 
ances for himself, the incident caused a good- 
natured laugh. 

The storm that broke with us in the morning 
did not reach the state south of us till two in 
the afternoon. Many of the country teachers 
saw it coming and had dismissed their charges 
at noon. One young girl, not many years older 
than I was, had her dozen pupils all muffled up 
to the eyes when the storm broke roaring down 
the ravine like a cloudburst. She called the 
children back and told them they would all 
camp in the school for the night. Her children 
were very young. Toward eight o'clock at 
night, the wind became so violent that the frail 
roof began to creak and wrench and heave. 
She got her youngsters up otf the floor, muffled 
them to the eyes; then tied each kiddie's arm 
to a long knitted scarf. There was no panic. 
She did not tell them what she feared. There 



94* THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

came a wilder swish, the roof lifted and 
whirled off like a hat. Down smashed stove- 
pipes and over rolled the coal stove. Every- 
thing was flaming in a second. She grabbed 
the scarf and led her little line of mere babies 
out into the white whirl of the wild night. 
Holding the head and tail of the scarf herself, 
she led the little line in a half circle through 
the storm down the ravine to the nearest ranch 
house without the freezing of as much as an 
eyelash. 

There were no Carnegie medal givers in 
those days. If you had suggested such a thing, 
you would have been ridiculed. Medal! Why 
give a medal for doing the day's duty of the 
day's job? So the term drew to a close, happy 
days of being ^'only a teacher," which have 
made me look twice ever since when I hear a 
man or woman use that epithet. It wasn't an 
**only" proposition at all. Why do they call 
themselves an ''only this" or ''only that"? 
W^hat drew the gray cataracts across their 
eyes, and gave the droop of self-pity to the 
corners of bitter lips, and injected the vinegar 
of envy into the souls? Thousands, tens of 
thousands, are doing for a lifework what I was 
doing as a substitute ; and they find their voca- 
tion leading down the trail of ageless adven- 



A HAPPY WOMAN 95 

ture, which the feet of youth have ever sought, 
to the big open workl, to freedom, to oppor- 
tunity for service, to independence and secur- 
ity. Multitudes of boys and girls on tlie fron- 
tier ^'bach'ing it" in 10 by 12 shanties with 
soap boxes for washstands and biscuit boxes 
for bookshelves have put in their homestead 
duties while teaching a frontier school. What 
if the wolves did howl all night, drawn by the 
odor of supper ham and eggs? The jewels 
were on the dew in the morning, and zest 
edged every light, and life was a good sporting 
proposition worth all the odds of effort and 
pain and trial! If I could have stayed and 
homesteaded a farm, and lived a life in the 
open, chains would not have drawn me back 
to city life; but, at that time, we didn't realize 
that a girl could do that kind of thing; and I 
was needed in my own home. 



I 



96 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 



CHAPTEE IV 

WHEN GOD WENT BACK ON ME 

The plirase sounds irreligious; but it isn't. 

There are none of us who have passed 
through tight places; who have borne heavy 
burdens, which other hands than ours have 
bound; who have been called upon to pay the 
penalty of our ancestors' transgressions in 
body and soul, in incompetency and skulking, 
in weakness and sin ; but we have at some time 
or other, perhaps, for a moment of illness or 
a night of darkness which only the soul knows, 
turned our faces to the wall with a horrible 
sinking conviction that God has gone back on 
the Game. 

God, Nature, Fate (whatever we call the 
Great Unknown) doesn't seem to play accord- 
ing to any rules at all. Just when we have 
come to swear by some rule of thumb as by 
the eternal rocks, the thing breaks under our 
Faith like a snapped reed; and we fall crippled. 
Perhaps it is faith in the personal intervention 
of a personal God; perhaps in the great scien- 



A HAPPY WOMAN 97 

tific law of cause and effect; perhaps in scales 
of justice so finely balanced that a hair's 
weight a century back sways our destiny of 
to-day. One man calls his talisman religious 
faith: another calls his scientific law; but just 
when each is leaning most heavily on his law 
of life, a Grinning Goddess called Chance in- 
tervenes. Nature slips a cog, or a belt, or 
something. The good man, whose touch blesses 
all he passes, loses his reason or his life. The 
blackguard, whose breath blights the atmos- 
phere and curses posterity with incurable dis- 
ease, lives on in redundant health a menace to 
life. Innocence is torn to pieces by the beasts 
of the human jungle. Guilt passes smiling 
unctuously down life's way. 

We may call it pessimism, or agnosticism, or 
loss of faith in God, the epithet doesn't matter 
much, the point is we turn our faces to the wall 
with a horrible sinking fear that, perhaps, 
there are no rules to the game at all, except 
Malignant Force. A certain brand of Chris- 
tianity takes unction to itself at this point of 
stress for what it calls resignation ; and turns 
up the whites of its eyes to any old curse that 
may come along as God's will. I know a 
woman who thanked God that her boy was a 
cripple, as though the Almighty had gone into 
the business of crippling little boys to keep 



98 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OP 

them from being naughty; when, as a matter 
of fact, not moonshine sentimentality, her boy 
was a cripple because she in her fatuous pre- 
sumptuous sex ignorance persisted in marry- 
ing an old man w^ho was foully diseased. Her 
ignorance did not save the child. Neither did 
her faith shield his innocence. A man cannot 
marry a parasite, and expect a paraclete. 
Neither can a woman marry a beast and ex- 
pect a saint. You pay as terrible a penalty 
for errors of judgment as errors of morals. 
You can't put your hand in the fire and not 
get it burned; and you can't put your soul in 
a cesspool and not get it soiled; and turning 
our faces to the wall, saying: "I suffer: I 
suffer": or saying unctuously ''God's will be 
done"; or sinking into the black despair that 
there is no God at all does not shield us from 
the results of our o^vn errors of judgment. 

I have known heads of homes who let "pov- 
erty come like an armed man," let their chil- 
dren sink down to a condition without shirts 
to their backs; and then consoled themselves 
that it could not be helped : it was fate, or the 
will of God, or the social system: they "had 
done their best." Whereas no living soul has 
ever done his best till he has done It, whatever 
the job of life has put up to him; and no living 
soul has a right to say he canH, till he dies 



A HAPPY WOMAN 99 

trying to put It over. Only then may we 
^^ curse God and die,'^ and declare there are no 
rules to the game. We want to be careful of 
snap judgments that the Euler of the Universe 
is a fool. We want to be careful we are not 
the fool; and skulking the facts of the case 
doesn't get you anywhere. 

I didn't learn these things from old Sol- 
omon. I got them bumped in the way you do ; 
and the bumps hurt at the time. 

When you do your work well, there is always 
plenty of work to be done. I had barely come 
in to the city from filling out this friend's term 
in the country, when I was offered and ac- 
cepted in succession, two other substitute posi- 
tions, one, in a small backward almost deserted 
^'boom" town; another, in the city, an enor- 
mous preparatory collegiate class of seventy 
youngsters in their early teens, mostly boys. 
I think it was my happy relations with the big 
obstreperous fellows of the Beautiful Plains 
district, that brought me the offer of the last 
position. The teacher was dying of tubercu- 
losis. In order not to cut off his salary, I was 
put in as a ^ temporary" at a figure that 
seemed perfectly godless opulence to me, $65 
a month. A regular supply would have cost 



100 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

$100 a month; so by pacing me $65, there was 
enough of a balance to keep the sufferer as 
long as he lived; and he lived for two years. 

I deemed myself the luckiest person alive. 
I wanted to laugh and sing through life. 
Now, instead of stopping to go to the univer- 
sity, I would study at night, take my degree, 
then when I had finished, I would have enough 
saved to go abroad. I was quite sure God was 
playing the game according to the rules ; so pre- 
sumptuously do we ascribe our blind runnings 
to and fro on an ant hill to the Great Euler 
of the Universe. 

The acceptance of the position was a blunder 
for a lot of reasons. It diverted me from my 
true aim ; and if you have an aim, the only way 
to get to it is to go to it in spite of whatever 
may be between you and it. Then, classes of 
seventy to eighty are either physical suicide 
to the teacher, or gradual mental suicide to the 
child. The teacher either does justice to the 
children, and injustice to self; or reverses the 
process. Besides, we were in that half-baked 
educational state of piling experiment on ex- 
periment. One week it was free hand writing. 
Another week, the youngsters were set to 
working their jaws in what was called "ar- 
ticulation." Then a physical culture or Del- 
sarte crank would come along; and we would 



A HAPPY WOMAX 101 

have an epidemic of that; soulful poses, ex- 
pressing personality through the body and that 
sort of attitudinizing. One week, we were told 
that ''to punish or strike a child was to insult 
God, its creator." Another week, some of the 
supervisors would not be quite so sure that our 
grandfathers' shingle methods might not help 
a boy's morals more than mushy, contempt- 
inviting pleadings for him ''to be good." The 
educational process was one constant run of 
fads, ignoring the fact that the aim of all edu- 
cation is to prepare for living; and the best 
foundation for that preparation is character. 
If the teacher realized that, all these non-essen- 
tial fads could be worked into the main current 
of aims, instead of being pushed up as ends in 
themselves. Besides, the stereotyT)ed routine 
robbed life of all zest. Skulkers must always 
be harnessed to routine; but from skulkers 
good work never comes; and to tie enthusiasm 
down to routine, to an hour's exercise a day, 
say, in working your jaws on "a-ee-ou," is 
to clip life of all zest. I taught with fury the 
first term, and did not spare myself, and stud- 
ied till four in the morning, and ended up with 
typhoid fever, which took every cent of the 
savings. The second term, I spared myself, 
put the burden on the youngsters, let the slug- 
gards slug, and the laggards lag, and the block- 



102 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

heads dream undisturbed by me behind their 
desks, and still studied till four in the morn- 
ing. But I had had enough of it. It was steal- 
ing something from life that neither gold nor 
rubies will buy. It was robbing life of zest. 
It was painlessly etherizing all initiative. It 
was systematizing, machine-standardizing, rou- 
tine-hypnotizing into a factory process what 
ought to be as much a living growth as the 
culture of a rose garden. It was, in fact, sub- 
jecting roses and cabbages and carrots and cau- 
liflowers and orchids and cacti to the very 
same treatment; and expecting good results, 
which, of course, w^e did not get. Was that the 
reason, I wondered, that so many teachers 
come to middle life disillusioned, with fires 
quenched? I could not answer that question 
then; and I can't now. 

I was restive for other reasons. To have 
a happy life you must swing on your own 
pivot ; and not teeter round the center of grav- 
ity of some other personality. If you want to 
be independent at forty, you must build on 
your own foundations at twenty. If you spend 
your youth substituting some other person's 
place, some other person will substitute your 
place when you come to middle life. You must 
aim to own your own labor and get the value 
out of it for yourself; or you will come to old 



A HAPPY WOMAN 1UJ5 

age and some other fellow will own the profits 
of your labor. If you are etherized, you will 
probably think it all right. If you are still 
alive, you will probably become a *' ramping 
red'^ something or other, cursing things as 
they are; whereas you should probably be 
cursing yourself for not having planned ahead 
to own your own labor just as soon as you 
could learn the rules of the game. 

I didn't analyze things out in this fashion 
at that time. I was just desperately restive, 
as it seems to me half the world of workers 
is restive to-day. I knew I wasn't getting any- 
where ; neither are the great majority of work- 
ers. I had deferred university work to save; 
and I wasn't saving a cent. The collapse had 
struck the West, I can only describe it by say- 
ing, like a hurricane. Miles upon miles of city 
houses stood empty, with streets lonelier than 
mountain canyons. Blocks that had sold at 
boom prices of from $70,000 to $200,000 now 
went under the hammer for taxes at a few thou- 
sands. It didn't affect the family income, but 
it did bring lame ducks limping home, who 
needed help. Boys, who had set out too early, 
had to come home and set out all over again, 
with a lot of fool-pride acquired in *'boom" 
inflation, which they had to discard before 



104 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

they could make the new start. One brother, 
who had been making $10,000 a year before he 
was twenty-six and not saving a cent of it, now 
came home down to $30 a month, with debts 
that he could never hope to pay, and habits of 
extravagance, and lungs giving very ugly un- 
mistakable signs. There were other lame ducks 
in the family connection, who are not a part 
of this story; but having been diverted from 
my aim to save, I now found that I could not 
save a cent. 

Just here comes in a question which can be 
answered only in a paradox ; and it is a para- 
dox you will not understand till you are at 
the place yourself. 75 it worth ivJiile to hurt 
yourself to help others? The woman with the 
feckless husband, the mother with the spend- 
thrift son, the sister with the no-good brother, 
the girl with the just-one-more chance lover 
all have to answer that question; and are an- 
swering it daily all over the world to their 
own hurt. Let us put the question differently! 
Is it worth while to help others if you have 
to hurt yourself doing it! If I were not tell^ 
ing this story of a commonplace life anony- 
mously, I could not speak frankly now. I have 
helped people in dire stress from their o^vn 
tragic habits binding them in cords of slav- 



A HAPPY WOMiVN 105 

ery, I believe the Bible expression is ^' cords of 
sin," who have scarcely had their wounds 
healed before they stole from the hands that 
fed them. I have broken myself financially 
twice, down to a dime, trying to stand between 
two people and the results of their own mis- 
deeds : one a man relative ; the other, a w^oman 
who was no connection, and they have barely 
been well away from the edge of the pit of 
their own damnation, before they have broken 
violently back over the same old way with the 
same old penalties and the same old wail of 
^'I suffer." And casually, without hurt to my- 
self, I have had the privilege of helping others, 
who have made good in a way to make the 
firmament to shine and the heart to glow. 
Does it pay to help if it means hurt to your- 
self? Each must answer as life has taught. 
Life has taught me that if people ivill let tjou 
hurt yourself to help them, they are unworthy 
of help; they will never make good; they ivill 
suck your vitality as a vampire sucks hlood, 
then put fangs in the hands that rescued them. 
But if, and please note, if they will not let 
you hurt yourself to help them, if they will 
fight your help on such terms, then they are 
worth the biggest gamble on the chancy Wheel 
of Life : they will return your interest a thou- 
sand fold for every dime you invest in their 



106 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

future. I 'm enough of a gambler to like to take 
sporting chances ; but I frankly think many of 
the vaunted sacrifices of women are as boot- 
less as the bloody sacrifice of a lamb to wipe 
out the sins of some fool-human, who had much 
better have cut his own throat and gone to 
swift judgment, or taken his licks without 
whining and learned to quit. 

AnyAvay, I knew this life was not getting 
me anywhere; and with exactly $200 to show 
for two years' w^ork I quit to go on with the 
university. If you ask w^hy I did not think of 
marriage as the way out, I answer because my 
mother had taught us that love was not a. way 
out, but a way in; and that we must never pass 
those portals unless love's torch lighted the 
way ; that if this light were darkness, it would 
be the greatest darkness of the human soul. 

There were other reasons that went deep 
down in earliest memories. When a mere child 
myself, I had seen a relative's child die; the 
end had come with such unexpected sudden- 
ness — suffocation from bronchitis, that no one 
had thought to get us children out of the room. 
*^Will he never — never speak again?" the 
mother had sobbed. *^No, God has taken him," 
someone had answered. Then I had dashed 
out of the house. There stood the doctor at 
the door. This is what he was saying: uncon- 



A HAPPY WOMAN 107 

scious of little ears within hearing. ''That 
child never had the faintest chance to grow 
to manhood. With a mother from a family 
disposed to lungs, and a father, a hopeless 
asthmatic, what chance had the little chapT^ 

I ran to the farthermost fence corner on 
the farm and sat down to think. My conclusion 
was that, if ' ' he hadn 't had a chance, ' ' he ought 
not to have been born ; and I am not sure that 
childhood inference had not more of wisdom in 
it than the dictum of sages that those ''who 
refrain from marriage are criminals to the 
race.'^ As life went on, I had learned what 
"not having a chance meant.'' With two ex- 
ceptions, there was not a member of our own 
large family endowed with sufficient physical 
stamina. All this was so deep in conscious- 
ness that it was hardly articulate, but, like 
many things so deep in the fiber that we are 
unconscious of them, it dominated conduct. 

Love had come, of course, in guises and dis- 
guises and masquerades. There was one di- 
vinity student, I remember, who wrote the most 
exquisite ballads and was a perfect encyclo- 
pedia of German and French literature. The 
fellow had a forehead like a dome and intel- 
lectually was most brilliant. He was also like- 
ly to inherit ample means; but I never knew 
a woman, who could endure him. Why? For 



108 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

some reason, which instinct felt but judgment 
could not define. His eyes were blue ; but they 
"were not clean blue. His complexion was rud- 
dy; but it was a muddy ruddy. I did not 
know the meaning of either of those signs, but 
I knew that he caused a sensation of physical 
repulsion among women. Why? ''Judge not 
that ye be not judged. '' I used to think it 
very wicked to condemn people even in one's 
mind without proof and jury verdict. I had 
not learned that ants have their antennae, and 
humans their instincts; and that both have 
been given to forewarn danger. I used to 
flagellate myself for not liking this man. He 
was strong on literature, and could quote 
Browning or Tennyson by the yard. Well, 
once I loaned him Pope. Now, Pope's epi- 
grams have a good deal of neat meat; but his 
earlier poems have a good deal of rank smell- 
ing putrid carrion. The carrion had never 
troubled me. I had lightly skimmed or skipped, 
and forgotten it. When he returned the vol- 
ume, he thought I ought not to read it. When 
I asked him why, he shook his head mysteri- 
ously as of something women and children 
ought not to know, and then changed the sub- 
ject. When I opened Pope, I found the ran- 
cid or putrid or whatever you like to call 'em 
poems all delicately marked as not to be read. 



A HAPPY WOMAN 109 

It didn't disgust or infuriate me. I exploded 
with laughter; and here is the comment I put 
down: ^'Punk takes fire easiest. So much 
youth, so much intellect, but what a lot of rot- 
ten wood this man must have at his heart's 
core to take fire so easily.'' And that finished 
him. Lest this seem a snap judgment, the 
first year in the university confirmed it. We 
were all waiting one day for half a dozen be- 
lated theologs. to come in to the lecture on 
Kant. ''The meds." were there; so were ''the 
legs.", as we called the law students; but half 
a dozen divinities failed to turn up. "Where's 
first row?" I asked "a med." He gave me a 
put-off answer. "Where were those theo- 
logs.?" I asked "the med.'s" sister upstairs 
in the dormitory. "Smutty trial in court this 
morning," she answered with a funny look; 
and I recalled that a filthy case was being aired 
in the courts. "Smutty trial, and our ten stars 
went to see that the judge did his duty — Yah," 
she laughed, turning a handspring off the 
couch, where she was lounging, "but thank the 
Lord the meds. and legs, aren't so good." 

There were others. Another man I recall 
as one of the best pals I had ever known. He 
was not in the university, but we seemed to 
think and read almost in team work. We 



110 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

seemed to find out the same new books simul- 
taneously, to read along the same lines, to 
think the same thoughts without expressing 
them. I suppose it was because we were so 
dead sure we were only chums that we were 
both so cock-sure that the companionship 
could not slip into more. We went snow-shoe- 
ing in the same parties. We went shooting 
and climbing and outing in the same crowds. 
It was about the time I was becoming horri- 
bly anxious about my body. 

I was growing to hate it ; it checkmated plans 
so often. I had regarded it as a machine that 
had to be stoked up for high speed, but to be 
treated always as a slave. In my heart of 
hearts I despised the physical side of life ; and, 
if we had faith enough in God, I didn't think 
the body mattered much. People, who were 
always thinking of their ''carcass'' as I called 
it nauseated me; and now my carcass took 
its fine revenge. On the question of the body 
I had come to divide people pretty much into 
two classes ; and I knew which I elected to join. 
There were those who deified their bodies and 
made little gods out of their passions. Them 
I regarded as sensualists. There were those, 
who denied the body and kept it under whip 
and bit, the ascetics. I ignored the third class, 
those who defy the body; and are fools. I 



A IIAITV WOMAN 111 

didn't realize that the body is quite as much 
in the scheme of life as the soul, and as neces- 
sary to it as a temple to the spirit. I elected 
to the ascetic and qualified for the fool. There 
were things the matter with throat and lungs 
that hung on like a hawk's talons. I didn't 
cough when I was bursting to cough for fear 
of what it meant; but I had wakeful fevered 
nights and wore high spots in my cheeks, that 
were a danger signal. I wouldn't let myself 
acknowledge the danger; but it gave me hor- 
rible sinkings of spirit. I couldn't believe that 
God, nature, life, whatever you call the Euling 
Power, would play such a mean trick as to fail 
me, when I banked on Him. There were such 
desperately good reasons for wanting to live. 
I had to live that others might live. Such an 
egotist is youth trying vainly to bind God to 
a child's behests; so blind to the fact that it 
is we who play the mean trick and fight God, 
when we abuse body or soul. 

Very depressed but never confessing it, I 
was out driving with this man. He was one 
of fortune's favored ones, born with a gold 
spoon in his mouth. Ever^-ihing had been 
done for him, and a professional career was 
opening out with great promise. He had an 
incisive intellect that you liked to watch as 



112 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

you follow quick keen sword fencing. We were 
talking of a mutual acquaintance, a woman, 
who was going a reckless course. She posed 
as a spiritualist, theosophist, or something, 
*'no body at all between her chin and her 
heels" as our cynical old French professor 
described her. My comrade flicked his horse 
with the whip with a funny look. 

"Oh, the furies destroy such women," he 
said perfectly frankly. "They talk sexless- 
ness in the name of purity till they lash some 
fool-man into a maniac: then there's a grand 
smash of fine china all round." 

It was this kind of incisive cutting to the 
quick beneath the pretence that promised such 
a future for this man as a pleader. I took it 
as a compliment that he had forgotten I was 
a woman. "By George," he exclaimed softly, 
following his own thoughts, "the spectacle of 
a clean man mated to a Venus Meretrix, or a 
clean woman to a Satyr is a crucifixion com- 
pared to which Christ's suffering was child's 
play." 

Just for a second I wondered which point of 
view he was thinking of, the man's or the 
woman's. I looked at him sidewise. He had 
snapping dark eyes and a chiseled profile. It 
was what you would call a hard face; but I 
never disliked hardness that was clean cut. It 



A HAPPY WOMAN 113 

was a face that might have been cruel, per- 
haps small, to an enemy. That was bad. Big 
force would just smash and quit. Cruelty 
would ferret and hunt and pursue. Children 
might soften the hard lines. All the same, I 
liked his keen perception of the truth of 
woman's sufferings. I knew it to be so horri- 
bly true. Deep in my heart was a conscious- 
ness that if I had belonged to a former gen- 
eration, to the generation of women that had 
to marry willy-nilly, or be damned; that if I 
had not known my own health was going to 
punk, that I undoubtedly had the hereditary 
taint of a lung tendency; that if I had not 
heard the doctor say '^Poor little chap, he 
never had a chance, '^ with all that was implied, 
it would have been easy to fall in love with 
this man and marry him. 

Did his finely sensitized mind feel the pos- 
sibility of such a change in our relationship as 
"pals"? (The older I grow the more confident 
I am that thoughts go out like arrows ; that 
mental states permeate the very atmosphere; 
that men and women are often criminally 
guilty for the mental touch that goes out from 
them in electric fire to some other.) He turned 
suddenly, and caught my look. I flushed to 
the roots of me. It was the first time such 
a thought had ever entered my mind; and I 



114 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

had been caught in the act, red-handed as it 
were. In an endeavor to relieve the pent si- 
lence, he began rattling off about a poor chap 
we had both known in the old collegiate days 
— a fellow who had swept his studies aside 
like a broom, and died just as he finished, ty- 
phoid followed by galloping consumption. 
The similarity to my own case was too marked 
not to be piercingly interesting. 

"Do you know that poor duffer had been 
supporting a mother and invalid sister?" he 
said. ^ ' The mother will have to take in wash- 
ing now to keep the daughter, spinal some- 
thing or other. I had the estate to settle up, a 
homestead out in the Norwegian settlement. Of 
course, considering the case, I charged only 
ten per cent." 

It was the "only" that went through me like 
a knife; the sheer unconsciousness of his own 
meanness of soul. Professionalism had as- 
phyxiated something in his manhood. This 
kind of man would charge interest in the set- 
tlement of the estate of a Jesus Christ. He 
would expect his relationship with wife and 
.. hildren to be dominated by a purse string, 
which he could tighten or loosen, which they 
must wear as a bit. (''The wrong thou doest 
me, I will forgive; but the wrong thou doest 
thyself, my friend, will I not forgive to the end 



A HAPPY WOMAN 115 

of time.'O It was winter. A wonderful after- 
glow lay primrose on the snow of the river 
bed where we were driving; and the bells jin- 
gled in a sort of flute music across the big prai- 
rie silence. He turned sharply. 

*'You are shivering," he said, tucking the 
robes closer. ''And you don't breathe right, 
it's too audible in frosty air. Did you ever 
have your lungs sounded? I have been watch- 
ing your health. It isn't right." 

"It is nothing," I said, putting a gauntlet 
across my mouth to soften the frost breath. 

"Yes, it is," he answered impetuously. "I 
have been watching you. I didn't want to 
speak so soon; because I wanted to be sure of 
your mind first; and I wanted to make some 
headway in my profession first, but I want you 
to quit this college game and let me take care 
of you." And, before I knew it, he was pour- 
ing out a volume he had not meant to say. I 
had to grab the lines to stop his impetuous 
torrent, it was all of expediency, what he hoped 
to make of his life ; and all the time I kept hear- 
ing the doctor's voice above the dead chil , 
"The poor little chap hadn't a chance: the 
poor little chap hadn't a chance." (''By 
the unseen are we bent and tortured most.") 

"Please stop," I begged. "For reasons I 



116 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

can not tell you I can never marry; and if I 
could I wouldn 't. I simply never shall. ' ' 

If he had turned his incisive mind to this 
personal matter with the same clearness he 
had discerned the impersonal ones a moment 
ago, I could have loved and respected him to 
the end; but the face he turned wore an ex- 
pression of wounded fury, of vanity hurt. I 
was as horribly hurt as he. He simply could 
not believe that any human being lived on this 
earth, who did not want to marry. We drove 
home in silence, and saw very little of each 
other for a year or two. I was off on a health 
quest. He had gone abroad on legal business. 
Four years from the time he had charged the 
dead Norwegian's estate up ^'only ten per 
cent.,'' he died on the shores of the Mediter- 
ranean of tuberculosis, so terribly long are the 
arms of that grinning travesty of Justice, 
which we try to believe does not exist. 

You mil notice that references to lungs come 
often now. This was not because there were 
more cases of lungs. It was that a fear had 
grown in myself that made me notice all cases 
of lung sufferers. I took my friend's advice, 
and without telling the family, went to our doc- 
tor. He had been ''a lunger" himself, come 



A HAPPY WOIVIAN 117 

West for his health. He did not even ex- 
amine my lungs. He sat looking at me with- 
out saying anything. He had graduated from 
tlio university of which my grandfather had 
been president. He sat playing wdth a paper 
knife. It must have been one of the most pain- 
ful operations that he ever performed in his 
life as a brilliant surgeon. 

^'How^ brave are you?" he asked abruptly. 

^'Fire away," I answered. *'I have never 
skulked a fact yet." 

Outwardly, I must have appeared hilarious, 
even reckless. Inwardly, I w^as squirming like 
a thing skinned alive and raw. 

**Know anything about your mother's 
eyes?" 

It was such a sudden switch, I was taken 
unaw^ares. 

*'I know that she has been complaining of 
her glasses." 

He fiddled with his paper knife for a min- 
ute or two. 

*'I examined her eyes the other day," he 
said. 

(She had stolen away and had her eyes ex- 
amined without telling me, as I had stolen away 
to have my lungs examined without telling 
her.) 



118 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

**She will be totally blind within a few 
years/' he added. 

After that, nothing mattered. All the dooms 
he could pronounce on me didn't matter. I 
did not cry out because the discipline of life 
had taught me that to cry out against life is 
the bleat of the sheep calling the Wolves of 
the Fates. 

The doctor was still talking. I seemed to 
catch what he said like a voice far away at 
the end of a distant telephone. At one sweep, 
he had knocked away the whole foundation 
of my religious beliefs — If God backed me, I 
could not be bucked : if I had faith enough, all 
the mountains of difficulty in life would be re- 
moved; with the Spirit of Christ in my heart, 
I had the talisman that could defy the Fates. 
(I forgot that Christ Himself for the ardor of 
a belief had been ignominiously and shamefully 
crucified.) The doctor was saying, ^'I thought, 
if I told you, you would try to be eyes and 
ears and hands to your mother, to anticipate 
her wishes ; and, as she is very frail, she need 
never know how swiftly she is going blind. She 
could not stand an operation. Besides, it is 
not cataract. It is a nerve disease brought 
on by overstrain, I should say, and nervous 
harassment. Your mother is a sacrifice to a 
foolish social convention that under no circum- 



A HAPPY WOMAN 119 

stances should a good woman get a divorce. 
When a man does not, cannot, or will not live 
iu harmony with his home, does not support 
his ^vife and children, and makes life a con- 
tinual nervous turmoil, I cannot understand 
the religious boycott against a woman who 
would preserve some atmosphere of love for 
her children by getting a divorce. Your 
mother is a sacrifice to that old prejudice. No 
use weeping over spilt milk, it's done.'' (I 
was not weeping; I was sitting petrified.) ^'As 
your mother is so frail, her eyesight will prob- 
ably last as long as she lives. I thought I'd 
tell you so you could spare her knowing it. 
Let the knowledge come gradually, be her 
hands and her feet and her eyes. Now, about 
you," he spun round, looking at me. *'You 
know how I came into this country? I was 
carried into this country on a stretcher. I 
don't tell the public; but for the first six 
months, I slept on the bare chairs of my of- 
fice and lived on," he paused; he was notori- 
ously a hard drinker, "lived on whisky and 
peanuts. But I'm very much alive to-day. You 
are not as bad as that. In fact, you are not 
bad at all. Y^ou have barely started to tobog- 
gan down hill ; but you have driven your horses 
too hard ever since you were born. I think 
you inherit it from that little piece of bisque 



1«0 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

animated by electric fire who is your mother. 
I have been watching you a long time. Prin- 
cipal tells me you walk through work with- 
out knowing it ; but the trouble is your dynamo 
is so blamed high charged you are going to 
blow up your power house and go to smash 
before you've begun life. Your lungs are nar- 
row and poor. Y^our breathing is bad. Your 
temperamental tendencies are bad. Your pulse 
is always high, it was ridiculously high even 
at normal when you had typhoid fever. I re- 
member you used to have night sweats and a 
little dry hard metallic hack then. Tell me 
the truth now, don't lie to yourself, do you 
do that yet?" 

I had to confess that I did both horribly, 
that there were nights when I could wring my 
pillow slip it was so wet. 

He bent his paper knife till it almost broke 
in the back. Then, he threw it down impa- 
tiently. ''Chuck it," he said, ''chuck every- 
thing for a couple of years! What's a college 
degree behind your name? What's the whole 
alphabet tacked on to it, if you graduate for 
a funeral? Go East and rest for the winter; 
then come back here for the summer. I want 
you to rest and eat beefsteak and live in sun- 
light for about two years. You think you can't 



A HAPPY WOMAN 121 

quit, but if you die you'll have to quit, llow 
old are you? Nineteen! I thought so! Well, 
humanly speaking you have fifty years to live 
if you take care of yourself; and you haven't 
one to live if you don't." 

^* Meantime, if I can't teach or go to col- 
lege, what is to buy the beefsteak?" I asked. 

He exploded in a harsh laugh. ^^My little 
girl, you haven't got close enough up to death 
yet to lose sight of the non-essentials. Teach! 
You are absurd — you with your lungs hope to 
live breathing second-hand air in superheated 
university rooms alternated with forty degrees 
below cold! Have some sense! You are not 
to enter a college room or a class room again 
for ten years. Let me know the train you go 
East by; and I'll be at the station to see you 
off! How about it — ways and means! God 
knows, I don't, child! There aren't any ways 
and means left out here since the boom blew 
up." (I knew he was thinking of his o^vn 
whisky and peanut days.) ''You've got to 
devise means by hook or crook to keep your- 
self afloat for two years"; and he rose, and 
bowed me out. 

The church we attended stood opposite his 
house. I looked at it and smiled bitterly in 
the frosty twilight. It seemed a monument 



122 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

to a lie. All it stood for in my life crumbled 
to dust. Even old Solomon went by the board. 
Only the lone Christ crucified stood out a re- 
ality. He had played according to the rules 
of the game, and got Himself assassinated, 
murdered, done to death on a tree, like a cul- 
prit lynched for crime. A great hulking la- 
borer went lumbering past drunk. I envied 
him his strength. I could have throttled him 
to get it if throttling w^ould have got it for 
me ; but what a parody this drunkard seemed 
on the promises of God! I had been asking 
for bread, and received a stone ; for meat, and 
received a serpent. Was this the end of the 
faith that was to move mountains! Was 
Christ, after all, only an impracticable ideal- 
ist, dreaming with His head in the clouds? 
Was life what the German pessimists called 
it, a sort of trap; a blind alley in which we 
found ourselves; an endless vicious circle of 
coming into existence with risk and anguish 
to our mothers, and going out, if not in a sec- 
ond anguish, then at best in a Lethean lethargy, 
that let us forget the evils we had done as 
we fell asleep? I had not learned that often, 
when we are asking for bread, we are snatch- 
ing greedily at husks, not corn; that some- 
times the long way home is the sure way; 
that when in confusion of values we wander 



A HAPPY WOMAN 123 

off the path of wisdom, the bumps and cuts 
and bloodgashes on our feet are certain to 
drive us back and keep us on the true trail. 
We have to learn that, when God seems to go 
back on us, lie may be engineering circum- 
stances to give us a slap on the back to stif- 
fen up our flabby backbones. Too often, when 
we call on our Satan of sloth and stupidity and 
sin, ^'Get Thee behind me, sirrah!" it is in the 
ardent though inarticulate hope that he will 
push us into exactly what we should avoid. 

If you ask why in this crisis, instead of wail- 
ing aloud to high heaven, I did not throw city 
life aside, take up a homestead and go out and 
live in the open, I answer for the very same 
reason that you did not see over the crest of 
the whelming billows, when you went down in 
the trough of the wave in the crisis of your 
own life. I didn't because I was too stupid; 
because the tears of my own ego kept me from 
discerning the opportunities lying all about. 
In other words, I was in a prison of my 
own personality; and stupidity had locked 
the door. Literally, one could have picked up 
homesteads within a stone's throw of the city 
at that time for $100 relinquishment fee — 
homesteads that later sold, not for a thousand 
an acre, but a thousand a foot. I didn't be- 



124 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

cause the Chinese foot-bindings of prejudice 
still shackled me. I thought I had the most in- 
dependent views of life, but I hadn't really re- 
alized that a woman is a free entity entitled 
to do what is best for her well-being. A bean 
held close enough before the pupil of your 
eye will shut out the fairest view of life. Un- 
fortunately, most of us have egos a good deal 
larger than a bean. At the present moment 
mine was shutting out God. Because my little 
top-heavy pyramid of life plans had kited over 
in a glorious upset like a pile of baby blocks, 
the sidewalk rocked beneath me as I walked. 
The frosty air had lost its fine tang. It came 
with the rasp of something raw; and the very 
sleigh bells seemed to jangle out of tune. I 
chose the loneliest street out of the city, and 
walked and walked for miles. Where the ave- 
nue seemed to jump off into nowhere, like life, 
into the infinitude of the darkening prairie, im- 
palpable, elusive, misty, with here and there 
the lamp of a shanty twinkling like a marsh 
light, I pulled myself up with a quick jerk to 
think. 

First of all, I had to quit. Second, I had 

to get out. Third, I had to , it was a blank 

wall. "When in doubt, don't.'' The trouble 
was I couldn't "don't." The spurs of neces- 



A HAPPY WOMAN 125 

sity were in me. I had to go on and do some- 
thing, if the plunge took me over a precipice. 
Of the $200 saved, about $150 remained. I 
could leave half that, and still have enough 
for my return ticket East. I turned back up 
the long wide avenue, heavy footed and heavy 
hearted. Snow began falling in heavy flakes 
that assumed the most exquisitely beautiful 
forms, like winged things. ^^Yes,'' I thought, 
^^and, at one breath, they melt. Somebody 
turns a switch, and the lights go out. There's 
a God somewhere ; and He 's an artist of beauty 
all right; but I'm not quite sure He isn't a 
cynic." Because so many others have passed 
the same place, I confess frankly that I hated 
life and the whole rotten scheme of things. 
Y^ou deified the body; and lo, it turned putrid 
under the sensualist's touch! You defied it, 
as I had; and behold, a reckless rider un- 
horsed ! You denied it ; and spent your life in 
ascetic prayers — what for? To have them 
come back empty from echoing voids cold and 
hard as these northern stars. 

The ego in front of my eye that night was 
about the size of the universe. 



126 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 



CHAPTER V 



THE EASIEST WAY 



When a woman bangs into a fact so hard 
that it bruises and breaks her bones spiritual, 
so to speak, she usually does one of two things, 
wraps herself up in a lot of lying platitudes; 
*^It can't be helped," ''God's will be done" 
and so on, the whole gamut of the sheep code ; 
or, through a sweat of agony of which she tells 
no soul, works her way out to larger beliefs, 
to what the fact means. 

When a woman's little world of beliefs col- 
lides with a fact, and collapses, it is not the 
end of the road for her. It is only a taking 
stock of things at the cross roads. She has to 
decide whether to continue follo^^dng the same 
old path, colliding with the same old facts that 
gash tender feet; or to follow a new trail; it 
may be, blaze a new trail to new beliefs. She 
can persuade herself that what she did was 
best; that it is God's will women should suf- 
fer; that good intentions are the rungs up a 
Jacob's ladder, not the paving stones of a cer- 



A HAPPY WOMxVN 127 

tain unspecified place ; or, she can face the mu- 
sic of her own making lionestly and accept the 
fact as a fairly forcible and plain revelation 
that the God of Things doesn't intend this par- 
ticular trail for these particular feet. 

With a man it is different. From the time 
he gets his first good thumping on the football 
field, it may be undercuts and side- jabs and 
fouls, he knows there is a cosmos of fact out- 
side his own hide ; and he accepts its teaching. 
Unless a girl has had mighty wise training, she 
does not acknowledge that cosmos of fact till 
much later in life, when she is actually hurt. 
That is why women are often so cruelly nar- 
row in their judginents of one another, and so 
dogmatically conservative on matters of which 
they know less than a child. Trail making in 
the world of fact is terribly hard going for 
the average girl. 

I learned all these things now, in the raw, 
not from Solomon, but from bumps. I had 
to work; and I hadn't the health to work. My 
mother was going blind and needed my sup- 
port; and I had undermined my health so that 
I could not support her. I understood in a 
way that telling could never have taught me 
the fearful weariness on many a wage-earn- 
er's face; they see the inevitable Doom com- 



128 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

ing, and haven't the gumption, or spiritual 
agility, or physical ability to sidestep and 
avert it. 

I do not think, from that day to this, that 
any wage-earning girl has ever needed to tell 
me her own particular, peculiar and personal 
Hell, the black pit of despair in the bottom 
of her o^vn soul, which terrifies her more than 
all the lurid flaming Hells preached from pul- 
pits. I know it from her face before she has 
guessed that I have read her secret. Often I 
can read the weakness in herself that has 
paved the way to that Hell. Because It is our 
own fault, we do not expect less help from 
God ; and because it is her own fault, I do not 
know that we should help the girl who is in 
stress any the less. 

Times untold, I have turned on a girl strug- 
gler, and told her what was making her weep 
her eyes out at night ; and once or twice, drawn 
by that knowledge almost clairvoyantly, when 
neither they nor I have uttered a word, I have 
followed a woman worker to her lodgings to 
find her sobbing her heart out, or contemplat- 
ing *' making a hole in the river.'' By that, 
don't think for the fraction of a second that 
all you have to do is fish your drowning vic- 
tim out. Not much! The pit into which we 
fall is digged too deeply in the bottomless stu- 



A HAPPY WOMAN 129 

pidity of our oivn characters: that's why we 
keep falling into it. 

Likewise of the man worker! I understood 
now as all the telling under the sun could 
never have taught me why certain types of 
men, flabby in body and flabbier in will and 
mental vision, became terribly world weary and 
worn and bitter at forty; became subject at 
times to devilish, reasonless frenzies of fault- 
findings and debauches and abuse. They were 
at war with self; and therefore at war with 
life. They were Hamlets, with something to be 
done which they w^ere too weak to do. They 
were frenzied prisoners beating their heads 
against the walls of the dungeon ; and the dun- 
geon was their own personality of incompe- 
tency, of unfitness, of folly, of vice, of stu- 
pidity, of mental vision obscured by the mists 
coming up from the rotting of the dogs in their 
own cellar. 

As this is the unexpurgated tale of how a 
woman beat her way out to happiness, I have 
to set down something here of which I should 
be ashamed; but I'm not. By the time I had 
walked back the long avenue to the center of 
the city opposite the church we attended, I 
was perfectly well aware my w^orld had col- 



130 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

lapsed. *'If God backed me, I couldn't be 
bucked"; but hadn't I bucked God I 

Then I knew: you can't break laws; they 
break you. You must not only pray for 
strength. You must fight for strength; and 
the only peace worth having is the peace that 
is a victory. I had said to myself that I would 
never bring any child into the world with the 
physical handicap which we had all suffered. 
I would never enter the Hell of a loveless 
union, which wrecked so many women's lives. 
There were two blind walls! I would avoid 
them both ; but here I w^as unhorsed, disabled, 
down and out, trapped in the cul-de-sac of 
woman's physical disability just the same! 

Then it dawned on me! I had fallen into 
the pit! Why! Because I had been colossally, 
impenetrably, asininely, hugely, grotesquely, 
thickly stupid! That the educational system 
helped my stupidity and indurated the dense 
arrogance of us all didn't extenuate my fault 
in the least. I had been a stupid blockhead, 
headstrong, fatuous, a fool! I had attempted 
to go against nature, instead of with her! I 
had built up my little rule o' thumb theory 
of how I would direct my life; independent 
of the great laws of life, which no human 
being can direct but only Destiny or God! I 



A HAPPY WOMAN 131 

had expected God to bend to me, instead of 
bending my puny atom to His laws! 

Stupidity! I execrated the word; and the 
older I grow, the harder I hate what it stands 
for, conceit, ignorance, presumption, asinine, 
fatuous, headstrong ego on a rampage! We i 

may need Hell to burn out our vices ; but Pur-c%^v^*-^V 
gatory must needs have fire, too, to smelt out 
this most smug of human amalgam, plain 
thick-headed stupidity ! From that day to this, 
I have hated stupidity more than I do sin. Sin, 
we know for what it is. It is branded on its-^^ 
face with the mark of the beast; but stupidity 
comes decked out as a saint, smug, presump- 
tuous, unctuous, thick, fumble-fingered, clumsy- 
footed, mumbling in God's name blacker follies 
than Hell could spawn. I looked at the church. 
Then, I looked at myself! I knew very well 
why my life plans had been ditched! I had 
bucked God's laws of health and body! Well, 
I'd take my licks and never whine! A frenzy 
of loathing, of self -nausea swept over me! I 
stamped the snow-padded asphalt pavement till 
my feet pained; and, well, I had come to the 
place where the safety valve had to blow oif 

in tears, or . I didn't weep; and our 

mother had brought us up to eschew slang as 
the Devil eschews Holy Water. What I uttered 
was a good deal stronger and hotter than slang. 



132 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

I said that I execrated stupidity. Let it go at 
that! 

Was it wise to let the safety valve blow oif 
before I went home? I don't know. You'll 
have to answer that for yourself. It was the 
first word of the kind that I had ever uttered 
in my life; and it was the most appropriate 
word I knew. Lots of women in such a case 
alternate between tears and depression; then 
depression and tears ; then tears and depres- 
sion. If I have to tackle tears or, — give me 
the ^ ^ or, ' ' every time ! They leave me in fight- 
ing trim, hot and on the rebound ; but hysterics 
and water works, they will dissolve strongest 
vim and iron nerve into dish-water! When I 
see them coming, I have only one recourse, the 
shortest sprint to the tall and all-hiding tim- 
bers! 

From this time on I never prayed for this 
or that; this boon or that; but only for clear- 
visioned knowledge of the truth and sense to 
use it when I got it. The admonition of the 
hired man from the meadows of the long ago 
came rippling in a sort of laughter through 
my stupid penitence — "When you raise the 
devil, hang on, or break your neck.*' If I had 
been envious before of strength as part of a 
woman's equipment in life, it became a fetish 



A HAPPY WOMAN 133 

with me now. Of all the stupidity of human 
history, surely this was the greatest. What 
was woman's peculiar job? The race. How 
had we equipped her for it? Set up as the 
beau-ideal of womanhood, toward which all 
girlhood should strive, the clinging vine idea, 
the ivy and the oak, the parasite existence, the 
vampire blood-sucking thing! 

^' Don't cross your knees! It isn't ladylike! 
Don't swing your arms! Don't be too vigor- 
ous ! Don't romp and play and shout like your 
brother" — don't — don't — don't from birth to 
death; A\ith a system of dress which the 
Devil, himself, could not have excelled as a 
preventive to the wholesome physical activity 
that upbuilds strength. 

That year, I remember, it was bustles and 
hoops; pretty nearly as effective as Chinese 
foot bindings or harem hobbles on healthful 
activity. The next year, it was sleeves the 
size of a balloon. The next year, what in the 
name of folly was it? Oh, yes, the Grecian 
bend, when a woman was supposed to walk as 
if she had a break in the middle. The next fad 
was trains to sweep up the excreta and filth 
of the streets. Then came false busts, false 
hair, rats and things from the scalps of peo- 
ple who had died of nameless diseases in 
China. Last has come the fad of dresses that 



134 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

actually hobble the feet. Chinese women have 
thrown off the foot-hobblings. Western women 
have assumed them. Why? That is the kind 
of thing makes me believe in a laughing, cyni- 
cal personal devil. That is why I always re- 
gard stupidity as more criminal and damning 
than sin. The best art is the art that conceals 
art. The best dress is the dress that conceals 
dress, that draws attention away from the body 
wearing the dress to the personality inside 
the dress. 

From that night, when I realized that stu- 
pidity, sheer stupidity, thick-headed stupidity 
and nothing else, had wrecked my life, and 
not God, health for women became a fetish 
with me. Dress for me became the means to 
an end; and the end was redundant energy 
and health. I have tried to dress as a means 
to an end, not to make myself a servant to my 
dress. I don't think I have ever been pointed 
out as either well dressed or poorly dressed. 
I have some rich friends, who are horribly 
sorry that I don't pay more attention to dress. 
They tell me what I might accomplish if only 
I would pay more attention to what they call 
*^ make-up"; but, all the same, I notice every 
once in so often they ask me how it is my life 
is so full and theirs so empty ; how it is I have 
so and so and such and such for friends, 



A HAPPY WOMAN 135 

whom they would give their souls to know. I 
cannot answer ; for they would not understand. 
They have staked their all on appearances, the 
show of things, the frills and furbelows, on 
earning $50,000, and giving the impression 
they were earning $500,000. I have staked my 
all on the character of the people inside the 
frills and furbelows; and where I have found 
we were fighting for the same ends, that fact 
alone has bound us together in "hoops of 
steel. '^ Don't think by this that I went in for 
the zoneless w^aist and the slattern eccentric 
and the pose of indifference to dress, which is 
the greatest pose of all. I didn't. Art is the 
art that conceals art. Dress is the dress that 
conceals dress. 

From that night, when I realized that my 
blockheaded, stupid indifference to the sacred 
claims of the body had wrecked my life, I sim- 
ply made dress subservient to the one end, 
redundant, active, fiery physical health. What 
didn't play in with that scheme I cut out. I 
weighed less than one hundred pounds then 
and measured five feet nine. I weigh to-day 
uniformly between one hundred and forty and 
one hundred and fifty pounds; and I don't 
think there is an ounce of it that is fat, or an 
ounce of it that is not nervy muscle all alive. 
How did I accomplish it? By setting myself 



136 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

to accomplish it; by realizing that no woman 
can fulfil her destiny, especially if that des- 
tiny be the human race, unless she first acquire 
physical fitness, strength, verve, rebound, all- 
aliveness. Then, I arose so dead at 8 or 9 
o'clock in the morning that I needed a siren 
whistle and a steam derrick to get me up. If 
I missed sleep, or meals, I was all in. To- 
day, I can rise at 4 o'clock as easily as 5 or 
6, and work till midnight, and get up ready 
for it the next day ; and I have tramped twen- 
ty-five miles with Swiss guides and gone meal- 
less thirty-eight hours, and come up with a 
rebound after one night's sleep. How have I 
accomplished this? By setting myself to do 
it ; by learning that I could accomplish nothing 
unless I did do it, that the body is God's as 
much as the soul, and that electric power can 
accomplish nothing without a good power 
house. 

I could not confide in my mother; for she 
was secretly bearing anxiety enough of her 
own. Nor could I confide in my little friend 
of the sweet peas and violet eyes. She would 
have wept and told me, ''yes"; that was al- 
ways what happened when a woman tried to do 
an}i:hing. She would have given me the ten- 
derest s^mipathy, suffocating, smothering sym- 



A HAPPY WOxMAN 137 

pathy, but not the lift, the spur, the fire I 
needed to come back fiercely at the game of 
life. It was a good thing there was no one to 
help me at that time. Otherwise, I could not 
have come to as complete and personal a re- 
alization of all the difficulties that confront the 
woman wage-earner. 

That very night I began vigorous gymnas- 
tics to throw out my chest; and I never missed 
a hot plunge bath at night to stimulate sur- 
face circulation and warm up cold hands and 
feet, which so often give the "lunger" a night- 
ly sore throat. Then, in the morning, came a 
cold sponge to avoid chills from draughts. I 
hadn't yet come to chasing the cure in fresh 
air, day and night. That followed after I had 
dosed myself for a year with codliver oil, and 
beef, iron and wine, and other nostrums, that 
lift you temporarily and let you fall back the 
moment you drop them. 

That night, when I opened the Bible to read 
to my mother before she fell asleep, the first 
verse my eye fell on was: "With long life will* 
I satisfy him." I didn't know whether to 
laugh or stamp. Instead, I sat thinking. Then, 
I wrote along the margin, "I'm going to test 
out if this thing holds water." 

It is twenty years since I wrote those words. 



138 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

The page is 3^ellowed; and the penciling is 
faint; but if there were room, I should pencil 
another verse along the margin of these words, 
a line from Emerson: '^For nature ever faith- 
ful is to such as trust her faithfulness. ' ' 

A week later, I left for the East, only to 
learn that you can never run away from your- 
self, from the shadow of what you have done. 
I went to stay mth a cousin some thirty years 
my senior. She was married, but had no chil- 
dren, and had always been to us something be- 
tween a comrade and a second mother. She 
was married to a man notorious as the rich- 
est and meanest citizen in that state. That, 
everybody knew ; but whether the general pub- 
lic knew that, in addition to being the richest 
and meanest man in the state, he was also a 
criminal I was not sharp enough to discern. 

He had been married three times. His for- 
mer wives had died of what the doctors diag- 
nosed as anaemia in one case; heart disease in 
the other; but I had not been in the house a 
month before I knew and my cousin practi- 
cally acknowledged that both women had died 
of wife-murder, the kind of murder that the 
law cannot or will not reach and punish. To 
one wife he had refused medical care and a 



A HAPPY WOMAN 139 

nurse in cliil(l-l)irtb. The child died. The 
woman died a year later from the results of 
the neglect suffered at that time. The other 
woman he literally badgered to her death. 

I set down these hideous facts because I have 
known many girls who thought they were too 
frail to earn their living out in the world 
choose this as "the easiest way.'' My obser- 
vation of life is that, of all the w^ays of earning 
a living, this is the most tragically hard, and 
not the less cruel because it is dumb behind a 
brass knocker with large lettering of respect- 
ability. I saw that this man stood in deadly 
fear of my cousin's high-spirited fearless char- 
acter, and that he hated her with a hatred 
that was virulent because he could not break 
her to cringe in fear before him, as he had 
broken her predecessors. He also hated her 
goodness as a standing reproach to his own 
vile life. I have seen him rave through the 
house at night foaming at the lips, declaring 
there was no such thing as a good woman in 
the world if only you could find out. After 
these frenzies, he w^ould have fits of terrible 
penitence, when he would donate a hundred 
dollars to the Salvation Army, or Children's 
Home, or Church, which he attended as as- 
siduously as the foremost saint. 

''The man was insane," you say; or **a 



140 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

husky son's number eleven boot would have 
tempered such frenzies.'' Granted he was in- 
sane; or that, pathologically, his was a case 
for a number eleven boot ! The point is— ;why 
are girls not told the physical facts under- 
lying the pathological need for a number 
eleven boot? Didn't this woman give this 
man's life a false front to the whole world, 
and so make him a menace to the community? 
After all, his raving brutality broke against 
her calm strength like storm-tossed waves 
against rocks; but I knew if ever her health, 
which was of the frailest, broke, he would get 
her as he had caused the deaths of the other 
two. I once asked my cousin why she had 
married him. She looked thoughtfully into 
space. 

'^What else was there for a girl to do thirty 
years ago!" she asked quietly. She had been 
a clerg}'man's daughter. When her father 
died, another clergyman, who was a relative, 
had invested her means for her so securely 
that she could not pull a cent out of the in- 
vestment for ten years. ^'What was there to 
do? He caught me as such men always catch 
a woman, at her weakest moment. You know 
about that investment. He had heard of it, 
from the M.'s! He was looking for some one 
to give an air of respectability to his wealth. 



A HAPPY WOMAN 141 

I was looking for a home, so it happened/* 
''So you gave him the stamp of respectabil- 
ity, which is a lie," I said; "and he gave you 
a home." 

"Yes," she added quickly, "but don't you 
ever think for one moment that respectability 
is all such men demand from their wives. I 
thank God I have had no children to carry 
the taint of such a disposition and of such 
perversion on down the generations; but if I 
had had a family of twenty girls, and every 
one was to inherit twice the fortune he has, 
I would have had each girl educated so she 
could earn her living if she needed to. Eco- 
nomic independence is the only security for 
girls from such a life as I have had." 

"Why don't you leave him?" I asked. I 
knew the money had at last come home from 
its long investment. "You would not think of 
living with a negro who had been guilty of 
the sort of things this man has. You would 
not live w^ith a man who had smallpox. Don't 
you see you are giving him a false stamp of 
respectability when he is really a criminal! 
What if anything had befallen So and So? (A 
young woman, who had lived in the house sev- 
eral years as lady's companion.) Why don't 
you divorce him? He has given you ample 
and repeated cause." 



an THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

If my cousin had shorn her reasoning of 
every adventitious consideration, she would 
probably have answered in three words — 
Bread and Butter ; but she gently rebuked me. 

^'My dear,^' she said, reproachfully, "do you 
realize that of all our numerous connection of 
relatives, there has never been a single case 
of divorce? I could not endure the slur and 
the gossip and public scandal. At first, when 

matters were worse, I once consulted '' 

naming a great lawyer. "He assured me that 
a divorce and alimony would be granted in ten 
minutes hearing; but when I told my husband, 
he showed such repentance that I thought, 
perhaps," she was speaking very thoughtfully 
and slowly now, "perhaps it was my mission 
to stay with him and try to reform him ! ' ' 

(There it was again — a duplication of my 
own stupidity; ascribing our blunders to the 
Will of God, who must needs have broad shoul- 
ders to carry the load of fool plans gone askew, 
which we ascribe to Him!) 

"Been thirty years, hasn^t it?" I asked. 

"I know — I know," she answered impatient- 
ly. "I belong to the old morality and you be- 
long to the new; and the new way of looking 
at things is turning our old standards all 
topsy-turvy; and the more I think of it, the 
less I know which is right. You think it worse 



A HAPPY WOMAN 14S 

for a good woman to live with a bad man and 
wrap lier skirts of respectability round his 
crimes, yes, crimes, crimes and diseases, than 
for a woman to leave such a man. You may 
be right, child; you may be right," she said 
sadly, **but I have stood it for thirty years; 
and it can^t last long." 

It didn't. One of the ways this man an- 
nually disported himself was each fall to re- 
fuse to lay in the supply of winter's coal till 
half the household had colds. This year, un- 
wonted cold raw wet weather came early in 
August. My cousin took ill. Her husband 
stormed at the disarranged household, and re- 
fused to send for the doctor. I, personally, 
went down and brought the doctor up from 
the city. It was pleuro-pneumonia, with the 
same old symptoms of the same old good-for- 
nothing lungs, that tainted the clan of us. I 
wish you could have seen that husband evince 
his grief before the doctor. 

*^ There is no use talking," declared that 

doctor. ^^No matter what people say, Mr. 

has the deepest reverence and love for your 
cousin." 

**Then, I wish you'd make him put it in the 



144 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

form of a check, and send her to Such and Such 
Sanitarium!'' I retorted. 

^^I will/' said the doctor; and he did. 

I nursed my cousin through that illness, and 
saw her off for the Sanitarium with her deep- 
ly grieved and attentive husband. Then I went 
to bed myself with a high fever, a cough, and 
the ujjper half of one lung badly affected. 

I forget what they called it, pneumonia, or 
congestion. It doesn't much matter. It was 
just a desperate sickness of the game called 
Life; and finding my cousin also in a cul-de- 
sac, up against a blind wall like myself, had a 
curious effect upon me. 

As this is the last place my cousin will come 
into this narrative, I may as well finish with 
her case. Three years later, when there was 
no one in the house to force the buying of the 
coal and to see that she had medical care, she 
had another attack of pneumonia, swift and 
severe. I happened to be East, and received a 
telegram saying: ^'My beloved and darling 
wife passed to her Eedeemer this morning." 

As my cousin had told me how she wished 
some small property arranged, I took the first 
train and was in the house in five hours. The 
words that greeted me were: ''You need not 
have come! I would have seen that her prop- 
erty went to her relatives.'' 



A HAPPY WOMAN 145 

^'You need not distress yourself about her 
property,'^ I retorted. *'I have my cousin's 
will, and as it does not leave as much as a 
hairpin to you or to myself, we need not cre- 
ate a scene over her dead body/' I was long- 
ing to take him by the throat, to flay him alive, 
to expose his life-long crimes, to cease this 
woman-cowardice trick of compounding a fel- 
ony with crime. A look of jaundiced green 
fear went over his face. He began sucking 
his breath through his lips ; and I never hear 
man or woman do that but I look down to see 
the hawk's talon fingers of a miser. His hands 
were literally crippled with clutching so. 

''Come upstairs with me," I said, ''I want 
to carry out what she wished me to do." 

We searched her desk, her papers, the mag- 
azines on the table at the head of the bed, for 
the letter of last instructions, which she had 
always told me she would write. Then I called 
up the maid. Up to this point, I could not let 
myself look at the calm beautiful dead face 
on the pillow. I didn't want to be guilty of 
sheer murder in the presence of the dead. It 
was the first time that I had ever witnessed 
a woman legally murdered, by a man. 

''Tell me exactly how my cousin died," I 
said. 



146 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

The maid gave a terrified look at the evil 
old man now bent over trembling, clutching 
and unclutching the claw-like finger nails in the 
palms of his hands. 

' ' Go on/ ' I ordered. ' ' Don 't mind Mr. ! 

I'm after the truth!" 

''She took sick, three days ago," began the 
girl doggedly. "I sent for the doctor, as you 
told me to do if ever she was sick. The doc- 
tor ordered a nurse " 

*'I couldn't get the nurse ordered by Dr. 
Arnoldy," broke in the old man, beginning to 
weep and whimper. 

''I sat up with her the first two nights! 
Then I think she wanted me to leave the room 
so she could write the letter to you." 

''What letter?" 

The old man was now bent across the brass 
bar at the foot of the bed trembling so he 
could scarcely stand. "I haven't it, so help 
me God, I know nothing about it, ' ' he babbled. 

"She must have gone out of her head with 
the fever," went on the girl. "I heard her 
walk across the floor to the table where the 
ice water stood. There was a crash, she must 
have tripped. We lifted her up. Her mind 
was wandering, she kept calling and calling 
the names of yez all. We laid her back on the 
bed — and — and " the girl began sobbing 



A HAPPY WOMAN 147 

bystorically, "when I came back from calling 
liim she was dead.'^ 



The guilty old creature had fled down the 
stair to the library, where I heard him tramp- 
ing up and down like a caged jungle beast, 
raving and railing and calling terms of en- 
dearment to the wife whom his neglect and 
vices had killed. 

The maid and I began a search for that let- 
ter. I went over the desk and papers and 
the magazines on the table at the head of the 
bed. Then we lifted her head from the pil- 
low ; there we found it, hidden betw^een the pil- 
low slip and the pillow, evidently to be posted 
by stealth when he was not looking, the saddest 
letter that I have ever read. It asked that my 
mother and a favorite sister of mine should 
come and be with her at the end. Then, it 
gave me directions. On no account w^as I to 
stir up a scandal by exposing him, not for her 
sake, but for the sake of the innocent victims 
to whom, it came out afterward, she had min- 
istered with money all her life ; but I was not 
to leave as much as a hairpin of her posses- 
sions in the house of this evil old man. 

I was trembling, when I had finished reading 
the letter, trembling because of what I dared 
not do. There lay the dead white face serene 



148 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

and at rest at last, one of the most queenly 
faces that I have ever seen! So this was the 
end of the old morality. So this was what 
many a deluded girl, and many a deluded 
mother, and not a few muddy-headed drama- 
tists and writers regarded as ^'the easiest 
way.'^ '^The Easiest Way!'^ I laid my face 
beside the dead face of my cousin, and kissed 
the lonely brow, and laughed because I dared 
not weep. So this was the house of the rich- 
est man in the city; of the richest man in the 
State, to whom philanthropies and charities 
and churches came begging with slathering flat- 
tery! Why, when my cousin married that 
man, she was cut dead for years by women 
who had angled for him for their daughters; 
and he had been sued for breach of promise 
and the claimant had received heavy dam- 
ages. ' ' The Easiest Way ! " I wish every girl, 
who has that idea of the easiest way, had 
been with me in that house for the next three 
days! ''The Easiest Way!'^ I must not dis- 
inter the old scandals that would smirch the 
innocent ; but I would see that he did not have 
the Easiest Way for the next few days I was 
to be in the house. I heard the hall clock 
chiming noon. When I started downstairs, the 
servant was softly tapping the luncheon gong. 
I kissed the dead hand. ''I'll do what you 



A HAPPY WOMAN 149 

want,'' I told her, ''but it's hard. Will good 
women not only wrap their skirts of decency 
round guilt when they are alive, but protect 
crime when they are dead?" 

He must have heard me coming, for he fled 
from the library to the dining room, where I 
suppose he thought that the maid serving 
luncheon would restrain my speech. It didn 't ! 
I saw him squirm and glance at me from his 
place with eyes of searching terror. Animals 
have no such guilt in their faces. Why have 
human beings? W^hat had her letter told? He 
held me off by saying an extraordinarily long 
grace. Then, he detained the serv^ant over the 
soup, over the fish, over a dozen fool-trifles. 

^'You can go, Louie," I said. 

Then, I rose and went round to where he 
was sitting. He was trembling; and the trem- 
bling of a guilty and obscene and diseased old 
age has something hideously, horribly pathetic 
in it. Though I loathed him with a loathing 
that was almost murderous in its hate, I could 
not help but pity this withered old rotten leaf 
trembling on a rotten stem. But the pity did 
not stop me. I leaned over, and I took him by 
the shoulder with a grasp that was almost a 



150 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

strangle-hold, and I bont down to say it right 
into liis ear so that he could never pretend 
even to himself that his deafness had not 
heard. 

^'I want to read this letter of your dead 
wife to you/' I said very slowly and distinctly. 

^' Don't! don't!" he pleaded as if to fend me 
off. 

''It will be comforting for you to remem- 
ber, afterward, in the long, lonely evenings, 
in the long, lonely years," I shouted in his 
ear. 

Slowly, word by Avord, I read into his ear 
that sad farewell letter, the more damning in 
its indictment because it did not utter an ac- 
cusation, but only shielded him from the dis- 
grace of his oAATi deeds. When I began to read, 
he had covered his face with his hand. His 
trembling became convulsive. He sank sprawl- 
ing and cowering over the table, sobbing aloud. 
I bent the closer and read the clearer. When 
I finished, he was not sobbing. He was scream- 
ing in convulsive contortions like a maniac. 

"You had better go up to your bed," I said. 

And I sat down alone in the desolate house 
of the richest man in a rich city; of the rich- 
est man in a rich State ! So this was the Easi- 
est Way. I could stomach none of its dainties ; 



A HAPPY WOMAN 151 

nor find any of the Rase of tlic Way. I have 
passed through some desperately liard phices 
in the earning of a living, as any man or 
woman who takes big odds must — but none 
as hard and long as the thirty years of this 
dead woman's easiest w^ay. 

I may say that the gentleman kept his bed 
till the day of the funeral, when the wreaths 
and messages and friends began streaming in. 
Then, he posed as the properly bereaved hus- 
band. In the services, w^here the clergyman 
began praying ' ' for the bereaved husband, ' ' he 
rose and broke from the room in a paroxysm 
of grief. He secluded himself in a den, where 
he w^rote a poem on the beauties of his w^ife's 
character. This he had printed the next day 
in the city paper. He had it reprinted as a 
circular, and sent us a great many copies of 
it. To my personal knowledge, he afterward 
proposed to four members of our somewhat 
big family clan; but his wealth never succeed- 
ed in buying a fourth victim. 

As far as we as a clan w^ere concerned, the 
decrees of the old morality had passed for- 
ever. We didn't consider that sanctimony 
larded with other money could sanctify wife 
murder; and I'm proud of womanhood in gen- 
eral to relate that though he proposed broad- 



16« THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

cast up to the hale old age of ninety-six, at 
which he died, he never succeeded in buying a 
fourth victim. I called his old age a hale nine- 
ty-six. I did not call it a happy old age. He 
lived twenty years after my cousin's death in 
a loneliness that I can describe only as a quar- 
antine. He died intestate ; though he had heirs 
enough under the bar sinister whom my cousin 
had supported as long as she lived. 

To go back to the story, where I lay in a 
high fever with a cough and half one lung bad- 
ly affected, while my cousin and her loving 
husband went off to the sanitarium ; finding my 
cousin in the same cul-de-sac as myself had a 
curious effect on me. Her case was so much 
more terrible than mine; so much more des- 
perate and hopeless, that the whole situation 
gave me a sort of reckless fever. If I had only 
a few more years to live, by jingo, I'd fill them 
full! I'd rush life like a half-back on a foot- 
ball field ; and, if I had to die, I 'd go down spin- 
ning, not whining. 

It is wonderful what a world of kinship suf- 
fering unlocks, which otherwise would have re- 
mained behind locked doors. After Dr. Ar- 
noldy had gone thoroughly over me, he sat 
down and began idly skimming through Marie 



A HAPPY WOAUN 153 

Baskirtsheff's Memories and a now brochure 
by Nietzsche, which were lying on the bedroom 
table. 

*'Like this kind of thing!" he asked. 

**It isn't a case of liking or disliking! When 
I read I want to get hold of truth, that can't 
be shot through. I want a guide to life." 

''When you find it, loan it to me, vdW you?" 
he laughed. "I've been looking for that same 
thing for fifty years; and, like Browning, I've 
only been able to grasp at its garment's hem, 
I've never really got a good look at the lady's 
face." He sat looking at me. "What made 
you come to this house!" he asked. 

"The doctor ordered me to come East and 
rest." 

' ' Rest, yes ; but did he know you were com- 
ing to a house, where your cousin was in the 
incipient stage of a chronic tuberculosis!" 

"I didn't know that myself! I thought she 
had lungs as we all have." 

"Yes, but in the case of a woman over fifty, 
it may be slow. She may with care last for 
years. The same with you at your age in your 
highly strung condition might go, quick as 
that," he snapped his fingers. 

"Look here, doctor, if I have only a short 
time, I am going to rush it ! I'm going to jump 
at life.'' 



154« THE AUTOBIOGRArHY OF 

** Bully for you," he burst out. ''You 
couldn't do anything better calculated to keep 
you alive and kicking; only you must be out 
of this house on the quick! If anything hap- 
pened to you here, it would break your cousin's 
heart. She would blame her condition for your 
death." Then he leaned over and told me his 
secret, he had an incurable malady and did 
not want it known because he wished to increase 
his life insurance to provide for the education 
of his sons. ''You are not in as bad a fix," 
he said. ' ' You have an even running chance. ' ' 

I sat bolt upright in bed. "Have I an even 
chance?" I asked. 

"You bet you have; but you must do one of 
two things. Either go to Germany and try 
these new tuberculin cures; or go back to the 
high dry Western plains and all the year 
round, forty below or ninety in the shade, day 
and night, summer and winter live an out-door 
life with some occupation that will take up 
every moment of your thoughts and keep you 
from worrying. Won 't the old man put up the 
money to send you to Germany?" 

I laughed out; but I did not tell him it was 
hard enough to induce "the old man" to put 
up money for the winter's coal. Nor did I tell 
him that of my four years' savings, less than 



A HAPPY WOMAN 155 

$10 remained, thoiigli I still had the return 
ticket. 

^'Only remember this/' he warned as he was 
leaving, "you have to chase the cure joyously. 
No tears ! No dances ! No night concerts ! No 
church! No anything where other people are 
assembled and you breathe vitiated air." 

''And remember," he called back from the 
door, ''no back thoughts! No dumps! No 
doldrums! No peevish self-pity! That will 
dump you as far back in a week as the fresh 
air will hoist you ahead in a month." 

"Good luck, doctor," I called, as he passed 
through the door. I knew from his malady 
that I could never again see him alive. 

"Oh, that's all right," he laughed bravely. 
"I fight to lose; but you may fight to win if 
you have horse sense and gumption and cast 
out the devils of peevish ego, that dominate 
most pampered girls of nineteen." 

I sat upright in bed, thinking after he had 
gone. Considering the terrible suffering en- 
tailed in the nature of his malady, I think he 
was the bravest man I have ever known, the 
way he fronted the foe that day and spurred 
me up to the fight. "Horse sense and gump- 
tion!" What were they, I wondered! "Cast 
out the devils of peevish ego, that dominate 



156 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

most pampered girls of nineteen!'^ Those 
imps, I would go after hammer and tongs. I 
knew them well both in myself and others. I 
sprang out of bed on my feet, though the room 
reeled round and a leaden stifling nausea 
rested on my chest. I took a strychnine tablet 
and enough port wine to drown a drunkard, 
and sat down on the edge of the bed till the 
room stopped running round in blurred cir- 
cles. Then, I dressed and took a four mile 
walk up hill till I was knock-kneed with fa- 
tigue, when I took the car back. That night 
I asked the maid to help me get my trunk out 
of the lumber room. In the bottom of the 
trunk was a perfect library of books on how 
to write English — March's huge tome of six 
hundred pages, French and Alvord and 
Crabb's Synonyms and the rest, some twenty 
volumes. I had not wanted to spend my sum- 
mer in enforced idleness, and had brought 
them along for surreptitious study. 

How trivial and picayune and absurdly pid- 
dling and far away from reality they looked 
in the face of this impending thing called 
Death across my path! What did it matter 
whether we said "shall'' or "will"; "begin" 
or "commence"; whether we split our infini- 
tives, or duplicated our "of's" or mixed our 
tenses, or ruptured our plurals, or stood the 



A HAPPY WOMAN 157 

whole English language on its head, so that 
we but expressed what we meant, and lived 
our lives, and stood for plus? I fingered the 
pages curiously where I had marked this, that, 
and the other rule. Why did college lore feed 
us on such sawdust and shavings, when what 
we wanted, all of us, was not rule-mongering 
on formalities, but the life beneath the forms ; 
life, more life, knowledge of how to live? 
Wasn't language always like the molten metal 
flowing from the blast furnace to take form 
in the world of the thought behind it! So 
that the fires burned hot enough and melted 
the hard metal to fluid fire, would not language 
always find its form best by the heat of the 
fires melting it to a living fluid? 

I dumped the whole cargo of books except 
old Crabb's Synonyms and Webster's Un- 
abridged into a big telescope suitcase. Be- 
tween the books packed in excelsior had been 
some old brass and silver candlesticks and 
bric-a-brac heirlooms of European families 
gone to wreck in the West, which I had picked 
up at a trifle in an auction room, intending to 
have them cleaned as a present for my cousin. 
These, I dumped into the suitcase, too. Then, 
I rang up a messenger boy to carry the lot 
down to a pawn shop on the east side. On 



158 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

the books for which I had paid $2 and $3 I 
realized about ten and fifteen cents apiece ; and 
as the episode marked a revolution in my own 
attitude to culture, I think I realized more 
than they were worth in the sum total of life. 
On the old verdigris heirlooms for which I had 
paid only a few cents I realized almost $20 
so does real life at the very outset transmute 
our schoolish values. I went out of the pawn 
shop about twenty pounds lighter and over $20 
richer. 

By taking the midnight train and traveling 
two nights and one day, I could make $10 and 
the return ticket cover my train journey. That 
left over $10. Was it wanton extravagance, 
or foolish headedness? I don't know; but life 
up to the present had been made a very joy- 
ous thing to me by good **pals.'' If it were 
only an even chance, if I might really go out 
like a snap of the fingers, I wanted them to 
have something to remember my love by. If 
I didn't go out like a snap of the fingers, I 
could easily earn money; earning money had 
never troubled me ; so I went across the street 
and took each friend some insignificant trifle. 

I took the midnight train for the Western 
Plains, the Long Way Home, the longest, hard 



A IIAITV WOMAN IVJ 

est way I bad yet traveled in life; for it was 
three years before I could call myself well. 
It was on the train that I met tbe greatest 
(lang'er tbat can assail tbe life of a wage-earn- 
ing girl. 



160 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF. 



CHAPTER VI 

THE EESPECTABLE SIGN ON A BLIND PIG 

The harshness of women in their judgments 
toward women, and the leniency of men in their 
attitude to men have become proverbial in all 
the literatures of all the ages. Why? 

The old order took for granted that women 
were such saints we had a right to expect 
impeccable conduct from them ; men were such 
weak and erring creatures they had learned 
to pave the way back to righteous conduct with 
charity, so long, of course, as they kept a de- 
cent front externally. Is this the true expla- 
nation of the difference in men's and women's 
judgments; or is it that men are juster be- 
cause their judgment is founded on sounder 
knowledge of facts? Do women, like the blind 
goddess of justice, shut their eyes to facts; 
and then pronounce verdict? 

** There is no excuse, there is absolutely no 
excuse," I have heard good women declaim, 
with the emphasis that mistakes ignorance for 



A HAPPY WOMAN 161 

evidence, ''there is no excuse for any girl who 
behaves properly, and is careful, becoming 
mixed up in an affair"; the word ''affair" 
being uttered, as of something with the lid on 
and tons of respectability sitting on the lid, 
though that same word "affair" conceals more 
suffering to womankind and detriment to the 
human race than all the errors of intemper- 
ance and creed put together. 

"What would you do if your daughter ran 
away with a man, who turned out to be a black- 
guard?" asked a Southern girl of her stately 
mother. 

The mother looked as if anyone asking that 
question must be demented. 

"Turn her from my door and tell her she 
was no daughter of mine." 

Five years from the day the daughter had 
asked that question, precisely that fate befell 
her. When in her extremity she telegraphed 
two or three of us (collect at our end; for she 
had not a cent), the blackguard had squand- 
ered her money and deserted her with three 
young children. There was no use appealing 
to the mother. She was of the indurated type 
which mistakes arrogance over an insecure so- 
cial position for virtue bulwarked by church 
and creed. When the little rat, whom I should 
hardly like to dignify with the name villain. 



162 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

laid his crafty plans to get possession of the 
daughter's means and person, he had counted 
on that very quality in the mother acting as 
a bulwark of security and secrecy for himself ; 
and I have heard lawyers, who handled similar 
cases, say that such types of criminals invari- 
ably choose their victims among the higher- 
ups, where family pride will outweigh out- 
raged justice. Anyway, we didn't appeal to 
this mother. She would only have hardened 
under appeal. We talked it over and tried her 
on another tack. There are always game good 
sports among leaders of women secure enough 
in their own position not to need a policeman's 
bludgeon. It's your half-way-ups, your grand 
duchesses of the half-baked, your tom-peepers 
over the social fence and chimney corner gos- 
sips over the social column, and social slugs 
on the under side of the board, and social para- 
sites on whom you can always depend to play 
the Judas with the kiss that betrays. We were 
lucky in having such a game good friend for 
this woman now. Never mind what we did! 
She took the situation in with a sense of the 
humorous, which most women lack, and ex- 
tended, not her patronage, but her prestige 
to the deserted wife. In a trice, without any 
appeal, taking unction to herself for a deal of 



A HAPPY WOMAN 163 

generosity and with a reinforced edition of 
the Ten Commandments, the mother came on 
the run to the rescue. She wore the air of one 
with a magnanimity not to be measured. In 
reality, she was in a panic at finding herself 
out of the procession of her own infinitesi- 
mally insignificant social world. 

*^The very idea of any girl taking such 
treatment from a husband at this late date in 
the world's history,'' said a woman famed for 
her charm; and yet when guest after guest of 
this woman's circle has had to shy off; when 
not a few of her friends have had to leave her 
home with terrible swiftness, and silence be- 
cause of love for her, when the kindest thing 
they ever did was to leave without telling why, 
her bitter diatribes against them knew no 
bounds; and she lauded her polygamously- 
minded and diseased old spouse to the seventh 
heaven as a model of virtue. It may have been 
Mohammedan virtue. It wasn't Saxon; though 
I never heard a man spout so much virtue in 
so short a time. Why were her judgments so 
harsh to innocence; so blind to guilt, black 
as the hangman's mask? Was it another case 
of earning a living ''the easiest way"? Was 
it bread and butter? 



164 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

'*You are the most just woman I have ever 
known in your judgments of other women,*' I 
once remarked to the head of a large train- 
ing school for nurses. 

She looked at me almost startled. **You are 
the only person, who ever noticed that in me," 
she said. She sat thinking as she sorted the 
files of applicants, "When a man does wrong, 
horrible, hideous wrong, no woman connected 
with him by blood or marriage cares to ac- 
knowledge herself a jewel in a swine's snout.'' 
She went on sorting the files. "If ever you 
use this in your writing, will you promise me 
to disguise it so people can't recognize me?" 

I promised. She sent the two orderlies out 
of the room. "When I was fourteen, I had to 
leave home. There is no use going into de- 
tails. My father was a country doctor. When 
he married a second time, we of the first fam- 
ily had to scatter. The only position I could 
find was a sort of office help with an old doc- 
tor, a friend of my father's in our little Mid- 
dle Western town. As long as I live, I'll never 
forget the kindness of that man's wife to me: 
yet she must look on me as the most ungrate- 
ful being. I could not tell her. She used to 
watch the office so I could go to the night 
school; and both the doctor and his wife, who 
were childless, used to refer to me as their 



A HAPPY WOMAN 165 

daughter. I was too happy to have found a 
refuge for words to express. The old doctor 
never interested me much. He was a fluffy 
whiskered Father Christmas sort of man witli 
a declining practice; and I used to wonder if 
he drank, or secretly used a drug. Looking 
back, I think I was really a little afraid of him, 
there was something familiar about him that 
was never jovial; but what could a girl do 
thrown out of her own home at fourteen? 

"Once, I had a very sore throat, wet feet 
from spring slush. He asked me to come to 
his inner office to have my throat examined; 
now you will know why I try to be just in my 
judgments of women! Just by chance he let 
the yale lock snack ; but I didn 't think much of 
that; for I was in a fever, and he was patting 
my arm saying how he wouldn't have anything 
happen to me for all the world. I was their 
little daughter, their comfort and joy and all 
that. I thought he meant it just as it sounded, 
I did not know there is no age limit ; what girl 
going out in the world for the first time can 
know that? I can't tell you what put me sud- 
denly on guard, in fact, filled me with terror, 
something evil and leering and shiny and ter- ■ 
rible on his face. What if hard lines had not 
sharpened my wits so that I saw that? What 
if I had been what many a young girl is, what 



166 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

God meant all young people to be, a sunbeam 
dancing into life ? I would not have seen it. I 
would have gone over the edge into the abyss. 
I sprang from the chair panting, choking with 
terror. He waved at the door as much as to 
say, *It's locked,' and seized both my wrists. 

*^Just then, the telephone rang furiously in 
the outer office, and his wife rapped sharply 
on the door. His face went black; he became 
purple. ^I'll get you yet,' he muttered. As 
he threw the door open to his wife, what do 
you think his words were, in the softest, suav- 
est voice, * Just a touch of tonsilitis : keep our 
little girl in bed till I see her in the morning.' 

*^I was stunned. I was speechless. I was 
utterly confused. If I had screamed out the 
truth, I would have been branded from that 
house an outcast. I don't think that woman 
had the faintest idea what a blackguard, what 
a criminal, what a crafty fiend her husband 
was! What I did was to go into screaming 
hysterics of weeping. Do you know it was that 
man who carried me upstairs with the ten- 
derest terms of fatherly endearment; and he 
insisted on laying ice packs on my forehead 
and spine; yes, and I may as well tell you the 
whole truth, though it strangles and nauseates 
me to the pit of my stomach yet, before he 



A HAPPY WOAL\N 167 

went down to the patient who had rung up so 
vociferously, he kissed me good-night. Then, 
he left some tablets for his wife to give me. 

^^I was afraid they were drugged. I could 
only lie weeping and moaning and refusing to 
take them, and wondering if God had gone to 
sleep or died! Then, I threw my arms round 
his wife's neck, she had been so good and ten- 
der with me, and begged her to leave the room 
so that I could sleep. She must have thought 
me the most ungrateful little beast. 

^'I lay in the dark trying to think what to 
do! Think how many hundreds of thousands 
of young girl wage-earners have lain in a 
deeper dark with no way out, trying to think 
what to do ! Will no great strong organiza- 
tion of women ever arise to shield and protect 
and defend such as these ; where the arm of the 
big sister, the rich and the strong and the 
capable will be round the poorest and the mean- 
est and the most helpless of all the world's 
little sisters? I often think that is what Christ 
meant when He said — 'Feed my sheep! Feed 
my lambs.' What is so helpless and defence- 
less and stupid as a sheep, or a lamb? Only 
one thing, a woman thrown on the world with 
no qualifications to meet it; a girl thrown on 
her own resources before she has any, physical 
or mental? Men have their labor unions, their 



168 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

political clubs, their lodges. What bond of 
union or defence has the army of millions of 
wage-earning girls? 

**To make a long story short, I could not go 
home. I could not tell. That is what such 
blackguards count on. If I told, what would 
the average woman do? She would draw her 
skirts aside and say there must be something 
wrong with the girl, or no man would take lib- 
erties '^ 

'*What would the average man do?'' I inter- 
rupted. 

*^Pity the girl and try to take some of the 
liberties if he were only an average ; help her if 
he were above the average," she answered. 

**In the city of Buffalo lived a second cousin 
of mine. If I could only reach her, she might 
let me act as a help till I could learn nursing, 
or stenography, or something; but I could not 
stay in that house even till daylight. I dressed 
in the dark, waited till everything was quiet 
and slipped down the back stairs in my stock- 
ing feet. In the palm of my mitt I had my earn- 
ings of three months, less than twenty dollars. 
Now what I ask myself is this : what if I had 
had no money to pay my way to Buffalo ? What 
if I had had no cousin to go to ? What if I had 
fallen into the hands of cadets and pimps 



A HAPPY WO:\rAN lf)0 

when I reached Buffalo? Remember I was not 
fifteen; and it was only by chance that I asked 
a decent policeman which car to take to my 
cousin's. 

''Any impostor could have represented him- 
self as my cousin's son or husband. I had 
never been in a city before in my life. That is 
why I keep asking myself will no organization 
of Big Sisters ever put out the drag net to 
catch the Little Sisters who are trapped for 
the abyss? In hospital work here we see it 
every day. It is untellable." She leaned for- 
ward covering her face with her hands. ''It is 
almost unthinkable. Are the Powers that make 
for Righteousness asleep ; for, if they are, rest 
assured the Powers that make for Evil never 
sleep? If I had not come so near to it all my- 
self, perhaps I should not feel it like a knife 
when I see girls that are mere children, girls 
that ought to be playing \\^th their dolls, car- 
ried in here maimed and torn by the unhunted 
Beasts of our human Jungle." Her voice had 
sunk almost to a whisper. "I have heard of 
farmers who offered bounties for ,wolves that 
destroy sheep. Are there no bounties for these 
wolves of our city streets? Yet almost the last 
words Christ said were to care for the most 
defenceless of all, the scattered sheep. 

"I told my cousin everything. I'll never for- 



170 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

get the advice slie gave me. She was a plain, 
hard, sensible woman; life had been her 
teacher. It was just the sort of brace I needed : 
*Look here, Julie,' she said; Hhe trouble with 
girls like you is you don't know any trade, or 
craft, or job. As long as you don't know any 
special thing, you've got to take the leavings of 
other people's jobs. You've got to live by-the- 
leave, or if-you-please from somebody else. If 
your boss is kind, it's all right. If he's too 
kind and you are young and good-looking, it's 
dangerous. It's my observation you are much 
surer of decent treatment if people daren't be 
indecent. The trouble with you was you didn't 
know any special job. You had to live by that 
old skezik's special favor, and that let down 
the five-barred gate that every girl ought to 
keep between herself and strangers. First 
thing you do is finish your high school; then 
learn a special job.' 

^ ' It was she who set me to nursing ; but what 
I ask myself is this, what would I have done if 
I had had no cousin? I could not have gone to 
the local clerg^Tiian. What would my word 
have been against the word of a deacon? I was 
a nobody. If I had opened my mouth, it would 
have marked me for all time in that little 
town. ' ' 



A HAPPY WOMAN 171 

*' Exactly what would you have done?" I 
asked. 

She looked straight at me and never hesi- 
tated. '^I would have done what thousands of 
friendless girls do after a hungry week or two ; 
I would have gone to hell ; and ended in a hole 
in the river. Oh, believe me," she said, laying 
her hand on my arm, ''such girls, as I anight 
have been, take terrible toll of good ivomen's 
lives for tvhat the good leave undone for such 
as I almost became. Do you know what I 
meanT' she said. 

^'You are speaking as a nurse now?" I 
asked. 

**As a nurse in a surgical clinic for rich 
women," she said; '^and that is why I try to be 
as just to women, as men are to men." 

If one touch of nature makes the whole world 
kin, like the head nurse of the training school, 
right here and now I got that touch in one of 
life 's sledge hammer bumps. I learned that all 
women workers in the home and out of it are 
fellow comrades, fellow strugglers, who pull 
forward or back, or worst of all, hold women's 
progress stationary ; which means arrested de- 
velopment, rust corroding the unused blade of 
effort, blue mould on the brain, palsy to the 
sword-hand that should strike straight and di- 
rect, and to the soul, the dry-rot of a mum- 



172 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

mied death. I learned that charity must be all- 
embracing as life is all-testing, not one of us 
escapes, high or low, rich or poor; and mene, 
mene, tekel, upliarsin, who shall say by what 
counterpoise we are weighed in the balance and 
found wanting! 

I knew I was a wage-earner. We all were; 
but I did not regard myself as belonging to the 
great mass of wage-earners. In fact, those 
words masses and classes had not much mean- 
ing for us in that new West. The carpenter of 
yesterday became the contractor of to-day and 
the millionaire of to-morrow. We of the uni- 
versity took credit to ourselves for not kow- 
towing to the dollar sign; but we were, per- 
haps, the worst snobs of all, I mean intellectual 
snobs, who mistook culture for an end in itself, 
instead of a means to the broadening and fill- 
ing of existence with life. 

I know now that many a man who never saw 
inside our books was gathering more culture, 
more of the knowledge that is power, from the 
Great Book of Life, than we could cram from 
all the printed pages of college lore. The man 
who to-day controls the entire railway and 
steamship system of Eastern territory was at 
that time working as a stone-mason on a city 
bridge. Of the five men, who own the majority 



I 



A HAPPY WOMAN 173 

stock in three transcontinental railroads one 
was splitting rails in the woods at $1.25 a day; 
another was a bridge contractor; a third kept 
an outfitting store; a fourth ran a river ferry; 
a fifth was a train dispatcher. The man who 
to-day owns the richest holdings in Klondike 
was so flat under the collapse of the boom that 
no one thought he could ever crawl out. The 
biggest copper magnate of the two Mexicos and 
Arizona was on the job very quietly among us 
as mining engineer at $50 a month; and a 
young fellow, since famous, just out of Colum- 
bia Mining School, who afterwards became the 
dominant force in Montana and Idaho mines 
and branch railroads, was working in blue 
jeans near our city in the most impossible gold 
mines ever discovered, all pyrites or *^fool 
gold"; so that we didn't really understand 
those foolish, meaningless words ''masses" and 
"classes," which are bandied about with such 
bitterness to-day by snobocracy and anarchy. 

We didn't understand what the anarchists 
inculcate as "class consciousness"; the up- 
starts as "exclusiveness." We were all on the 
hustle. Those who made good went up and 
were received into the circle of the worth- 
whiles. Those who didn't were left alone and 



174 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

like the swine of Holy Writ went promptly over 
the cliff to oblivion. We had no fault to find 
with the social system. We hadn't time; so 
while I was a wage-earner and rejoiced in 
work, I did not realize that I was one of an 
army of seven million unconsciously carrying 
out an economic revolution. 

I did not realize that what would hurt one 
would injure all. I did not dream that one of 
my upbringing could be menaced by the dan- 
gers, say, that menace a little girl working in 
a laundry, or behind a counter. If the little 
laundry girl got smashed in the wheels of life, 
why, of course, I and all my shoddy kind would 
pull the mangled remains off the wheels with 
kid gloves and put them in an ambulance to be 
carted where they take care of mangled lives. 
If a little mill girl fell over the edge of the 
city's cesspools of vice, to be sure I and all my 
kind would fish her out at the end of a forty- 
rod pole, and disinfect our fishing tackle, and 
pass by on the other side. That I or my kind 
could get mangled on the wheels, that hands 
could reach up out of the cesspools and clutch 
at us I neither knew ; nor, if I had known, would 
I have believed. It was while going home with 
the doctor's death- warning humming in my 
head that I got my lesson. 



I 



A HAPPY WOMAN 175 

At the train 8ooiii2^ me off on tlio health quest 
to the AVest that niichiight was one of the lame- 
ducks of the connection, who had been ruined 
by the collapse of the boom. He was desperate 
for money; and he had a family to support. 
"By George/' he said, ''I envy you going back 
"West. I was a fool to have come East again. 
If I had the money, I'd light out for the West 
on a blind chance quick as that," snapping his 
fingers. He was a man to whom far-off fields 
always looked green. There was always some 
hicky turn of fortune's wheel which he could 
grasp if only he had a little money; and, in 
days of prosperity, when he had money, he 
threw it to the winds in the wildest dissipa- 
, tion. 

i ''Look here," I said, ''if you had another 
I chance, do you think you could keep from being 
I a fool?" He said what such men always say 
in such cases. He didn't think; he knew. Just 
:give him the chance. 

(It may be mentioned here that the people 
who ask for chances aren't the people who 
make any use of them. The men who know 
how to use a chance are the men who know 
how to create that chance.) 

"How much money do you need to go 
West?" He told me. "All right! I'll get it 
for you." You see I hadn't quite got rid of 



176 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

that old belief that all I had to do was to tap 
God, and I'd get all I wanted. 

''The trouble with you was," said an old 
frontiersman, to whom I told the whole epi- 
sode, ''you thought you could boost a person 
externally. You can't. It's got to be done in- 
ternally. If you have to boost a person up to 
the scratch in the first place, you'll have to 
keep kicking him up to the scratch all along 
afterwards, and life hasn't time for that. If 
you want to help, give a man's soul a different 
slant; then, he'll work out his own salvation." 

The sleeping car was crowded. By some 
mistake in the assignment of berths, I had an 
upper. Everybody was in bed except an old 
gentleman who had boarded the train at the 
station. He introduced himself and addressed 
me by name. "President of the Uni- 
versity told me about you," he said. "I'm 
Mrs. So-and-So's brother." 

Mrs. So-and-So was a bulwark of church and 
society in our city, and an intimate of my own 
home. I instantly recognized a well-known 
Eastern financial promoter, notorious in our 
city for several spectacular speculations that 
had succeeded, but somewhat distrusted for 
other speculations that you could hardly call 
shady, but rather shaky. The heavy band of 



A HAPPY WOMAN 177 

crape on hat and overcoat sleeve vaguely re- 
called the story of a daughter about my own 
age, whom he had brought West for her health 
and then, against the doctor's orders, whisked 
off to Europe, where she had died. He kindly 
offered to exchange his lower berth for my 
upper ; and I went to bed praying the hardest 
I had ever prayed for God to play down; not 
for this, that, or the other thing, but for an 
open way to the fore through the blind wall 
that seemed to encompass life. Others may 
have found out differently ; but as far as I have 
gone I have never found that God opens the 
way, but rather does He give strength and agil- 
ity for us to hew the way through the wall, or 
climb up over it, or circumscribe it. 

Curiously enough, the occurrences of the 
next morning seemed almost a direct answer 
to those wild prayers; so readily do we read 
our desires of an ant-hill world into the great 
designs of the Universe Ruler. I wakened 
late; and when I went to the dining-car, by 
chance was sho^\Ti to the table where the old 
gentleman of the night before sat. He rose as 
I said good-morning, gave some orders in an 
undertone to the head waiter, who knew him, 
and reseated himself opposite me. 

I felt rather than saw the stare that grew 



178 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

embarrassing. When I looked up, his eyes 
were full of tears. 

^'How old are you?" he asked, without a 
word of preliminaries. Then before I could 
answer, '^And if I had not urged her to come 
home from the West, she might be alive yet. ' ' 

The trend of his thought was too evident to 
need any explanation. I suppose it must have 
been the hectic coloring, or short breath, or 
general contour of face; but he had fancied a 
strong resemblance to his dead daughter; and 
his grief had unmanned him so that he had 
stayed on in the dining-car alone with the 
waiters. When I went to order breakfast, the 
waiter told me it had been specially prepared. 

^' You must let me," he said. He was sitting 
with his elbow on the table and his hand over 
his eyes. *'You don't know, you are too young 
to know what it is to care for only one person 
in all the world, and to have that one person 
snatched from you and laid away in a foreign 
grave. ' ' 

I was too amazed and confused for answer. 
The story came back to me in vague snatches 
to which I had paid no heed at the time, how 
this man had never agreed with the other mem- 
bers of his family. They had refused to come 
West with him. He spent his summers in the 



A HAPPY WOMAN 179 

West and Ins winters in Europe ; but in the dis- 
cordant life the dead girl had seemed to be the 
one exception. On her he had centered all his 
love and his joy. It must have been a selfish 
love at best; for it was his disregard of the 
doctor's orders in taking her away from the 
high dry air of the West to the fogs of London 
that had hastened her death. This we all knew 
in the vague hurried don't-care way of the 
West with its neighbors. Perhaps, that is one 
of the most striking differences between East 
and West. In the East everybody has known 
everybody else so intimately for generations 
that the slightest intrusion of the new produces 
a surprising resentment. In the West too 
many strangers are coming and going all the 
time for people to manage their neighbors' 
affairs. I would not have known these details 
of this man if his sister had not been a promi- 
nent woman in the city. When I looked up he 
had pulled himself together. 

''You think it strange that I should talk this 
way with you; but when you entered the car 
last night in the half dark with that dry cough 
and quick breathing and huskiness in your 
voice, I could hardly believe it wasn't a year 
ago, when I took her East. Besides, I have just 

crossed the ocean with President of your 

University. He told me how much your case re- 



180 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

sembled my daughter's, the quick break, ar- 
rested development/' then, he abruptly broke 
off, realizing what resemblance in the third 
stage might mean to me. Then, in a quick ef- 
fort to cover his slip, ''The President 

told me he never had a student who mastered 
work so easily without knowing it." 

''Oh, the President was throwing bouquets 
at himself, ' ' I said lightly. ' ' He was a student 
when my grandfather was president. ' ' 

' ' He said if your health had held out that he 
intended to pay your expenses for a post-grad- 
uate course abroad." 

' ' As my college days are over, that isn 't very 
much consolation." 

"You will not go back?" 

I shook my head. 

"That's right! There is no use bucking life. 
If you do, it bucks you." 

Later, when the waiters had cleared the 
tables, he tipped the head man off, smoked a 
cigar and told me about his daughter. He car- 
ried a miniature of her in the back of his 
watch; and I could see something of a resem- 
blance to myself. 

"You must not let yourself go as she did," 
he said. "What are your plans?" 

"Plans!" I looked at him. "No plans; 
hustle, and hope, and die kicking ! ' ' 



A HAPPY WOMAN 181 

'' Hustle, and hope, and die kicking,^' he re- 
peated. ''That wouldn't be a bad motto for 
all of us for the next few tight years. Those 
of us who come through alive will be wealthy ; 
but it's a toss-up who is going to smash next. 
My own collections have been $2,000 a month 

short since I went to Europe. Young " 

(the son of the President of the University) 
''is my secretary; and I'm very uneasy about 
things. I'm very dissatisfied. When so many 
notes have to be extended, it would be very 
easy for payments to come in and yet not go 
do^\Ti on the books. Half our accounts are ex- 
tended from month to month. It would take an 
expert accountant six months to prove a mix- 
up. I can never feel quite sure where Billy's 
inborn inaccuracy merges into loop holes for 
dishonesty to back through." 

"Why do you keep him, then?" I asked. 

If I had been experienced and older, that 
question could have given me the keynote to the 
whole situation on the spot; and if he had an- 
swered frankly, it would have been to the effect 
that Billy knew too much to be fired; but he 
hemmed and hawed about the President being 
an old friend and Billy a harmless, well-mean- 
ing boy, though he himself had come West to 
change the whole system in his offices. 

Afterwards, w^hen we had gone back to the 



182 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

pullman, I saw him across the aisle making a 
bluff of reading a newspaper upside do^vn ; all 
the while studying something in his own mind. 
Ants have their antennae and humans their in- 
stincts, though we call ourselves sublimated 
donkeys when we trust those invisible feelers 
of the soul. I knew, though I would not let 
myself know what he had meant to convey in 
that reference to his business. Other travelers 
had gone to the observation car in the rear. 
He leaned across the aisle. 

^^See here," he said. ^'I have a plan! You 
have to work. I venture to say there isn't a 
family in the city where every member over 
sixteen won't try to do something this winter. 
Why can't you take this position? You'll find 
the offices the most sumptuously furnished west 
of Chicago." 

(I did; and it has given me a distrust of 
sumptuous places and people ever since.) 
^' Don't think I am offering you this out of pity, 
because you resemble my dear daughter! I'll 
admit that resemblance first drew me to you; 
but the fact is you need work and I need help. 
Here, if you doubt," he said, handing two ad- 
vertisements clipped from the leading dailies 
of the state. They advertised for '^a confiden- 
tial secretary, salary $1,200 a year, bonds of 
$10,000 required and highest references." 



A HAPPY WOMAN 183 

I sat suddenly erect from the pillows. If 
ever an answer came to wild prayers, this was 
it, bolt out of the blue. I could hardly trust 
my voice; much less my own hopes. There 
were slig'ht medical debts to be paid back East. 
There was that lame duck to be helped coming 
West. There was the home to be kept. There 
was money needed to let me have another stab 
at the zest of life. Surely, God was playing 
down, playing down ! 

^'Mr. B ," I said. ^^ There are three 

plain reasons against your plan. I know less 
of office work than you do of Hebrew. My 
health may go to utter punk in the cold 
weather; and I couldn't raise ten cents w^orth 
of bonds, let alone $10,000." 

He laughed lightly and kindly. He was evi- 
dently a man not used to having magnanimity 
declined. ''Let us take those reasons," he said. 
"I don't want a stenographer. I have one. Nor 
do I want a collector. W^e'll leave Billy on his 
job, the installments are coming due on land 
sales all over the State. Notes will have to be 
extended and settlers who are hard up tided 
past. Now what I want, when I have to go off 
to Europe, is some one who is honest to do my 
banking, to act as a check on the book-keepers 
and collectors, to take entire charge of receipts 
and disbursements, to whom I can give power 



184 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

of attorney, who is honest but has brains 
enough to see that others are honest. I can be 
here only a few weeks, then must go abroad 
again. I am convinced that you can fill the 
position if it works in with your plans. As to 
your health, it is only at the month end, when 
payments are due or overdue, you will have 
long hours. At other times you will be re- 
quired in the office only long enough to attend 
to the banking. If large payments come in 
after three o'clock, take them home Avith you. 
The bookkeepers and collectors have access to 
the safe; but I want no one to have access to 
my accounts but my secretary. As to the bonds 
ordinarily required, these are hard times all 
round: we'll waive that." 

He asked me to have luncheon ^vith him. I 
excused myself. He left the car. I lay back 
among the pillows like one drawn out of the 
depths by a lifeline, with a jubilate singing 
through my soul as in those childhood days, 
when I used to hum Proverbs over with my 
head under the bed-clothes. The sudden re- 
bound from anxiety sent a positive glow of 
warm physical happiness through me. I was 
so relieved I could not thank God, words 
seemed too poor and small. I wanted to live 



A HAPPY WOMAN 186 

gladness and thanks, as I want to yet, when I 
know life's best and worst. 

Now, understand two or three things dis- 
tinctly, this man was kind. He was one of the 
kindest men I have ever known; but it was a 
kindness that made him doubly dangerous. 
However he may have been in business, and his 
finances were too devious to be followed by 
either a ferret, or a mole, in his personal rela- 
tionships he did not designedly set out to do 
wrong. Some have an idea that the greatest 
dangers in life are from the branded criminal, 
the ink-black scoundrel. Believe me, as far as 
girl wage-earners are concerned, this is not the 
case. The branded sinner you know. The 
saint you know. You can always foretell ex- 
actly how they will act under given circum- 
stances; but it is the half-way sort of person, 
part saint, part sinner, who flip-flops back and 
forv\'ard, over the line dividing right from 
wrong, who is the greatest menace in the world 
to youth. 

This man was not a satyr rioting in lewdness. 
He was not the Minotaur painted in Watts' 
sermon-picture with the dead song bird in its 
claw. He was not the crafty villain of the 
stage ; but he and his kind are a greater menace 
to youth than all three of these types together; 



lae THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

for you accept them on the grounds of decency 
and never find them twice in the same place. 
Scripture, you know, defines two types of 
swine, the swine that tramples the pearls under 
foot; the swine that wants to wear a jewel con- 
spicuously in its snout. 

This man had been drawn to me by the re- 
semblance to his dead daughter. He spoke to 
me constantly in her name, as of doing for me 
what he would have done for her; as of com- 
pensating to me the loss his rashness had 
caused her. More courteous, chivalrous treat- 
ment I have received from no one; but it was 
tainted. When I had fathomed to the bottom 
of things, I was wanted for precisely the same 
purpose as my cousin, who married the richest, 
meanest man. I was to be the respectable sign 
on a blind pig. You remember Judas thought 
he could at once be both loyal and a neat bar- 
gainer in silver. It is the same in all life. 
Your greatest danger is not from open ene- 
mies. It is from tainted friends. 

Meanwhile, I did not realize all this. So 
great was the relief from anxiety that I fell 
asleep from sheer happiness; and there came 
dreams, the strangest, weirdest dreams. I am 
neither a psychic nor a spiritualist; and yet, if 
I am to set down the facts, I have to acknowl- 



A HAPPY WOMAN 187 

edge here that out of some suhlimated depths, 
which we have neither discovered nor explored, 
came warning and guidance and foreshadowing 
of the cardinal events in the next fifteen years 
of my life. I cannot relate these dreams here, 
they came too fast, like moving pictures across 
the film of the brain; and, after all, are they 
any more wonderful than the flashlight pho- 
tography of life events covering many years 
on films less than a fourteenth of an inch in 
diameter, occupying in time less than a fraction 
of a second? 

These experiences are so deeply concerned 
with the intimacies of the inner soul that we 
refuse to give them to the psychical societies 
as data: yet of such data must science take 
cognizance in the next few years. I shall re- 
late only the briefest outlines of three of those 
dreams. They came in lightning flashes, liter- 
ally chasing one another, as moving picture 
films come. 

There was one of the little friend, who had 
given me the flowers, when I set out in life. 
She was at this time in perfect health, living in 
an Eastern city where the family had moved 
when the collapse struck the West. I saw her 
die so suddenly that it was not death, it was 
really a glad translation, a passing from the 
curtain of things we don't see to the real life 



188 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

behind what we see. She lived for eight years 
after this time, and we often talked over that 
dream. She thought it portended some phil- 
anthropic work, she could never quite screw 
her resolution up to undertake. I thought it 
warned her of a weak young bank man, to 
whom she was engaged and who afterwards 
proved an absconder. It portended neither. It 
portrayed exactly what occurred eight years 
later, her end so swift and unexpected that it 
was more like translation than death. 

Then, there was the old dream of the half- 
naked figure flying along the edge of the preci- 
pice with the wolves snapping at its heels. I 
saw the runner come bounding out of the moun- 
tain thicket and dash for safety into a fenced 
kraal such as ranchers construct in mountain 
clearings. Other figures were in the enclosure. 
A man fastened the gate in time to shut out 
the wolves. I looked again, white bordered 
vest, white whiskers, carefully pressed frock 
coat, restless, large, well-manicured, pudgy 
hands, the man was the well-known financial 
promoter, whom I had met on the train. "Was 
the flying figure myself I wondered in my 
dream; but, even as I looked, the runner had 
skirted the fencing of the kraal, and bounded 
out over the far side up the mountain to a flow- 
ered Alpine meadow, where the voice of glad 



A HAPPY WOMAN 189 

waters disimprisoned from snow filled the sun- 
light with laughter. 

There was another dream, from which I 
awakened panting, hot with exhaustion, and 
drenched. It was the child of long ago on the 
runaway horse going a mad pace, up a steep 
mountain trail, setting the rocks trembling and 
the hawks and black carrion vultures flackering 
up a-wing amid the funereal pines and hem- 
locks. The trail opened to an upper Alpine 
meadow, ripe, dead ripe, with the heavy-headed 
yellow wheat; but, instead of the self-binder of 
the prairie, the reaper was the white vestured 
and hooded figure of death with his scythe. 
Either the flacker of the vulture birds circling 
darkly overhead, or the strange hooded fignire 
of the reaper, terrified the horse; for he car- 
ried the child at a gallop through the wheat 
field to green meadows girth-deep in the flaunt- 
ing flowers of the Alpine heights; and on up 
where the voice of glad waters disimprisoned 
from snow filled the sunlight with laughter. 
There were details in this dream too startling 
and vivid to be given here. Didn't I dream 
that I dreamed these things, the sceptic may 
ask. So little did I dream that I dreamed them 
that penciled back on the yellowed leaves of 
those old Proverbs are the outlines of the 
dreams. A doctor who was a family friend 



190 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

and acquainted with my ancestry tried once to 
explain it all as a case of mental, psychological 
throw-back to certain Welsh ancestors. He be- 
lieved in psychologic as well as physical ata- 
vism. Though I lived only a day's journey from 
the highest mountains in America, I had liter- 
ally never seen any ground higher than the 
coteaiix and cliffs of the semi-prairie States; 
but in this dream was every detail of those 
mountains which I was to come to know and 
love within a year. Was it a throw-back to 
those Welsh ancestors, who took glee in throw- 
ing enemies over a precipice! Why try to ex- 
plain an unknown X with another unknown Z? 
When I wakened, my new employer and the 
porter were standing looking at me. Whether 
their faces or lips said it I don't know; but I 
seemed to catch something about ''not lasting 
long. ' ' 

The office was the usual land and trust affair 
that in those days acted for capitalists in the 
East who loaned to settlers buying on the in- 
stalment plan in the West. Vast concessions of 
land had been bought from the government for 
a song. On this land the trust company ad- 
vanced settlers enough to make a beginning. 
There were also hail and fire insurance depart- 
ments. It seemed to be part of the regular busi- 



A HAPPY WOMAN 191 

ncss of this office to maintain a good under- 
standing with the leading politicians of the city. 
They were in and out at all hours. In the hard 
stress of that \\dnter personal loans were con- 
stantly made to these local party leaders and 
charged up to general office expenses. It also 
seemed part of this office's business to main- 
tain good relationship with the leading men of 
the various churches. The man at the head of 
the hail insurance was a vestryman in one of 
the Episcopal churches. The manager of the 
fire insurance was a prominent Methodist. 
Billy — the son of the president of the univer- 
sity — was evidently another link with profes- 
sional people. I didn't realize that I was ex- 
pected to play any part in the linking up of a 
social chain till one day my employer asked me 
if I ''knew the So-and-So's" — a family of great 
social influence but always in debt from an 
extravagant pace. I happened to know^ them 
very well. I was asked if I could drop a hint 
to the head of that family to the effect that my 
employer would like to talk over a business 
matter of mutual advantage. "I'm an older 
man than he is. I'd like to sound him before I 
make a definite offer, ''Mr. Blank had explained. 
It was really the explanation that made me 
think twice. Beware of people who explain. 
Wasn't the usual procedure for tw^o business 



192 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

men with a matter of mutual advantage be- 
tween tliem for one to write the other asking 
an appointment? I asked Mr. Blank if he 
knew that this family's chief business ability 
was in the way of borrowing money. ^'That's 
all right, ' ' he answered magnanimously. * ^ If he 
takes this matter up, I'll be glad to make him 
a small loan." 

I don't know to this day why he wished to 
loan that family money, unless to ensconce him- 
self more securely socially ; but I delivered the 
message, delivered it casually as was suggested 
to me ; and the funny thing was the man came 
on the run. I found him deep in a confer- 
ence with Mr. Blank one day as I came from 
lunch. From their faces I knew they had met 
at the lunch hour to avoid the office staff. That 
night, the father of the family stopped me on 
the street to tell me Mr. Blank had loaned him 
$900 to meet the deferred payment of a real- 
estate speculation. ''You 're a lucky rascal," he 
laughed, ' ' to be in the office of such a kind old 
chap. ' ' 

But was 11 That was the question I asked 
myself before I had been in the office a month. 
Greater kindness I have never received; and 
yet though we are told not to look a gift horse 
in the mouth, we are also told to beware of 



A HAPPY WOMAN 193 

the Greeks when they come bearing gifts! T 
had been introduced to two banks with power 
of attorney to deposit and draw for both my 
employer's personal account and the land com- 
pany's account. Billy, who looked at me with 
quizzical eyes, when he learned of my posi- 
tion in the office, had gone off on a tour of in- 
spection with Mr. Blank to the colony which 
this land company had settled — I supposed to 
extend deferred payments; and I was left to 
check over from the stubs of receipts all pay- 
ments made for six months and to compare 
them with the bank deposits. 

The thing that amazed me first was that the 
exact amount of many of the payments on land 
were credited to the personal account of Mr. 
Blank instead of to the land company. I looked 
in vain for a summing up of the scattered 
amounts in a big total transferred to the land 
company. There was none. It struck me as 
so anomalous that I went down to the banks 
for a record of the deposit slips. Surprise the 
second came there! The name on the deposit 
slips was not in a single case that of Billy. 
It was that of Mr. Blank, to whom Billy had 
forwarded all checks, many of them to Europe. 
The manager in one of these banks was an old 
family friend; also a trustee of the university. 
He asked how I was, laid his hand on my shoul- 



194 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

der and said sometliing that struck me oddly. 
I had said how glad I was to get the position, 
so I could pay my medical fees, keep things 
going and have another try at life, "Yes, yes," 
he said, ''but I think Mr. Blank is luckier to 
have a girl like you in his office." 

As I boarded a car, who should sit down be- 
side me but our friend of the $900 loan? 

''It was a decent thing of that old codger 
to help me out," he said. He was a man who 
would have accepted a billion dollar loan from 
the Angel Gabriel and then referred to the 
whole hierarchy of heaven as "poor old 
chaps." "But he might as well be generous," 
he went on. "All these foreign trust and loans 
will blow up before we're out of the woods. 
They got their land through corrupt politics. 
They could sell at 50 cents an acre and come 
out ahead on the game. ' ' 

"What about their colonists?" I asked. 

He laughed. "Do you know what makes life 
insurance the most paying thing in the world?" 
he asked. "It's because six people out of 
seven who take out life insurance let it lapse. 
Only the seventh hangs on long enough to draw 
out what he has put in, with a sporting chance 
for his relatives if he dies meanwhile. Some 
of these land comiDanies are selling on instal- 
ment plan. Before hard times pass, six out of 



A HAPPY WOMAN 195 

seven of these colonists will jump the settle- 
ment and abandon everything. They don't get 
title till they have made the last payment '' 

'^You mean?" 

"I mean nothing," he laughed jumping off 
the car. 

A suspicion of which I was ashamed clouded 
the seeming benignity of the magnanimous Mr. 
Blank. As I entered the offices, tsvo of the ste- 
nographers were talking. One had an absurd 
little lisp. ^'Corth," she was saying, ^'corth, 
Billy plays at t' club! corth, he lothes money 
that ithn't his; but I think Mr. Blank would 
wather he got tangled a little, it keepth a 
sthring on Billy. ' ' Seeing my amazed face, she 
swirled in her swing chair. 

'^ Don't let me mock your shodesty," she 
laughed. ' ' Think Mr. Blank would let you bank 
two or three thouthand twith a week, if he 
didn't think you'd get mixed and get a sthring 
on you, tool" 

I didn't answer but passed to my own of- 
fice troubled in thought. Like Billy these sten- 
ographers had eyed me quizzically when I first 
came among them. Then, not considering me 
a competitor in their arena, they had become 
more than friendly. It was true though Mr. 
Blank knew nothing of me directly, I was han- 
dling from two to four thousand a week of his 



196 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

money, and when it came in after banking 
hours (as it did on Saturday) I had to carry 
it home with me and sleep with it under my 
pillow, rather than leave it in a safe of which 
a dozen office hands knew the combination. 
There and then, I made up my mind never to 
have a variation in my accounts by the frac- 
tion of a cent. Then, I went at the books to 
try to rid myself of that cloud of suspicion. 
Luckily the land accounts opened where a bun- 
dle of papers had been inserted among the 
leaves. I looked at these, they were receipts 
not sent out. Then, it came to me in a jiffy. 
I pulled down the books of notes due. It was 
plain, these were the receipts of settlers, who 
had paid partly in notes, w^hich Mr. Blank was 
carrying for them. The suspicion went with 
a great sigh of relief, he had discounted the 
notes in the bank of the land company's de- 
posits, and placed the part payments in cash 
to his own account till the notes came in. 

Mr. Blank came home with Billy from the 
trip of inspection the day before Christmas. 
His presents to his employees were sumptuous. 
In fact, everything about the man was sumptu- 
ous, from his diamond shirt studs and fluffy 
shining whiskers to his patent leather shoes 
beneath conspicuous spats. 

Our offices were carefully arranged. The 



A HAPPY WOMAN 197 

stenographers occupied the big outer office, 
where a boy in buttons kept guard at the gate 
and carried in all callers' cards. The insur- 
ance departments flanked one side. Between 
their big square offices and the chief's apart- 
ments of four or five rooms, my own little long 
narrow office was sandwiched, opening on the 
street corner, where a network of wires 
hummed and sang jubilates and misereres of 
the world of work all day. I used to listen to 
the winter wind whistling in those wires, like 
the currents of life touching the silent chords 
in our own souls; and I was glad that I be- 
longed to the World of Work. Forever, the 
feeling of a superior culture class passed from 
me. I was of the World of Workers and would 
thank God if only I could live to work. What 
would culture, what w^ould parasitic luxury, 
what w^ould childish social ascendancy, matter 
in the sum total of this new World, not of War, 
but of Work! Two things only would count 
in this World of Work, of which the wires sang 
their jubilate and miserere, efficiency in ser- 
vice and the character you built up on your 
day's job. 

To go back to those offices, the partitions 
were frosted almost as high as a man's 
shoulders; but in my office along the upper 
edge of the frosting hung a little long mirror 



198 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

so tilted that it reflected all that was going on 
in the big outer office and in the chief's office 
behind mine. Mr. Blank explained that this was 
to enable a former secretary to keep an eye on 
all the office hands without their knowing. It 
may have been for him to keep an eye on the 
secretary without the secretary knowing. The 
day before Christmas, Mr. Blank was personal- 
ly distributing his largesse. I was standing 
waiting for a promised payment to come before 
going home, w^hen I happened to look up in that 
mirror. What I saw was absolutely innocent, 
Mr. Blank resplendent in white vest and gray 
spats w^ith red carnation in his buttonhole was 
placing a seal ring on the small finger of the 
coquettish little stenographer who lisped. It 
was neither the act nor the fact that he had one 
arm round her shoulders to accomplish the feat 
of putting on the ring that startled me. It 
was the fact that his eyes were on the back 
of my head to see that I did not turn. I did 
not turn; but in a flash and against my will 
I saw in the mirror. 

He came through to my office and laid on my 
desk a little picture with his card stuck in the 
corner of the frame. On the card were the 
words, ^^A tribute to a faithful employee.'' I 
thought at first it was the picture of the dead 
daughter of whom he was always talking, but 



A HAPPY WOMAN 199 

on looking closer saw it was one of those price- 
less little old colored engravings of the days 
when the process was hand colored and hand 
finished. 

''Why, Mr. Blank, I can't take this. I haven't 
had time to prove whether I am a faithful em- 
ployee. Hang it on the walls here till I prove 
it." 

He looked at me queerly. Solely because 
I had a fur coat on waiting to go out, I threw 
open the window. 

''Why did you open the window that way!" 
he asked sharply. 

''Because I have a fur coat on and the heat 
makes me cough." 

"Oh," he said in a low voice, like one who 
had caught the cue to a wrong pose. "I 
thought for a minute you were afraid of me." 

"Why should I be afraid of youf " 

Having caught a second wrong cue, he 
floundered deeper. "I love you, child," with 
a long pause, which I did not fill, "as I loved 
my daughter." I was beginning to doubt those 
invocations to that daughter. "I would die be- 
fore I would see any harm befall you." 

"Don't you do any dying for me," I laughed. 
"I prefer people who live for me." 

"You're right, you're right," he said, and he 
wished me a Merry Christmas and told me he 



J^OO THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

might be called to Chicago by the midnight 
express, in which case I would find typewrit- 
ten instructions on my desk. Then he re- 
treated awkwardly amused to his own office. 
Now you know why I always hold that the ink- 
black is no menace to youth. The danger is 
from the half tones. 

Still the payment did not come in. I heard 
the stenographers covering their machines and 
going home. Only one of the insurance men 
and Buttons and I remained on duty; and I 
had not turned on the light. I heard the wires 
hum and sing to the winter ^vind, their jubilate, 
their miserere, to the World of Work. Hurry- 
ing Christmas throngs packed the streets be- 
low, workers all of them; I, too, was part of 
the big current now. T^Hiy did people work? 
To keep alive, that was the excuse for nearly 
all the ill of life ; for the gambling hells, whose 
lurid lights I could see amid blaring saloons; 
for the painted cheeks, whose more lurid lights 
I could see amid the Christmas throngs : yes 
and for the good as well as the ill of life, for 
the jubilate that the wires sang of man's con- 
quests over space and time. To keep alive, 
that was why I was working; why I was part 
of the current. 

Suddenly, I saw the light switched on in the 
chief's office. It was that diabolical mirror 



A HArPY WOMAN 201 

again reflecting the ornate chandeliers of the 
apartments beyond his inner office. I looked 
up. In the mirror I saw the face of Mr. Blank. 
He was sitting in the suite famed for its year- 
ly dinner to the Eastern directors of his com- 
pany; famed, too, for its art collection. His 
gaze was wrapt on a picture not reflected in 
the mirror. It w^as the expression. The mir- 
ror couldn't create that, as of a face intoxi- 
cated w^itli the opium fumes of dark unspeak- 
able thoughts. I shut the window and left the 
offices with the cloud of that suspicion back in 
my mind again, with a poignant memory, too, 
of that dream on the train. 

A telegram to the house next morning told 
me Mr. Blank had left for Chicago and re- 
quested me to get the keys to his apartments 
from the caretaker and register to him some 
papers he had left in the bureau drawer of his. 
room. 

By chance the brother next to me in age 
walked down with me that Christmas morning 
to get the papers. I wonder now, though I 
had told my mother nothing; (what, when you 
weigh it, was there to tell) had her clairvoy- 
ant love followed the shadow of a doubt in 
my own soul and so engineered the company 
of that brother! He was a boy of redundant 



202 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

health and animal spirits, without an atom of 
reverence in his soul for the fine arts. I was 
so busy unlocking a succession of doors, find- 
ing the bureau, locating the right drawer and 
extracting the proper papers, that I had not 
noticed the room till my brother let out a howl 
that sounded like, **By Golly, Jeremiah, Jehos- 
ophat and all the prophets! Water! Water! 
Lady fainted! Open the window. High art! 
Fine art! Wow!" 

^'What in the dickens is the matter with 
you!" I asked; and I looked up from locking 
the drawer. 

The walls of the lounging room, the dining 
room and bedroom were covered with beautiful 
paintings ; but what had set my brother off with 
his nonsense was a life size type of the art, 
that by no possible stretch of imagination can 
be described as concealing anything. It was 
not the naked art that startled me. It was the 
memory of the face wrapped in opium fumes 
of thought as the gaze had rested on that pic- 
ture. 

^'Gee, kid-sister, you've turned white as a 
ghost," exclaimed my brother. "I was only 
fooling. It's none of our business what the old 
boy likes, but he's got 'em bad." Later, go- 
ing down the stairs, the elevator was not run- 
ning on the holiday, and we took the stairs 



A HAPPY WOMAN 203 

in relays of three landings at a time, he turned 
to me. '^You look all-fired sober! You 
wouldn't let anything like that affect your job, 
would you? Say, twelve hundred a year is 
twelve hundred a year, these hard times. We 
all have to live. You hang on!'^ 

I did not answer. The boy was simply voic- 
ing the sentiment of the economic world that, 
where money is concerned, rotten morals and 
leprous souls don't matter. Will they continue 
not to matter, I wonder, in the new day, when 
economic woman becomes a dominant factor? 
Our grandmothers would not buy household 
wares of peddlers, who might carry the black 
plague. Shall we of the new day patronize 
larger vendors, who exist by incorporating a 
black plague into our very commercial sys- 
tem? 

That is what I mean when I say that the new 
problems of woman in industry are but the old 
problems of the home projected out from the 
home into a complexity called commerce. Half 
the commerce of the world could not exist one 
day without the patronage of women. Shall 
women patronize any form of commerce that 
runs a Juggernaut car over the maimed bodies 
of women workers? 



204 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Could I but have told my brother, the letter 
of confidential instructions on my desk nailed 
me to my place faster than rivets. Mr. Blank 
had received warning from Chicago of a very 
grave situation in banking. At any day, the 
crash might come. (You remember how the 
banks went smashing in '93 like a succession 
of firecrackers?) If my health would not per- 
mit me all day in the office, I was to take a cab, 
charging it to the office, and go down between 
one and three. I was to deposit all collections 
in both banks at a quarter of three. Precisely 
at three I was to forward a draft from these 
banks to him in Chicago, never leaving more 
of a balance than would keep the accounts 
open. He could not be back before February 
and might be delayed till March, but depended 
on me to keep things right. It was in Janu- 
ary that instructions were wired to cut the ex- 
penses of the office to the bone : lay off stenog- 
raphers, retire Billy, let all the insurance men 
but the two heads go. 

I had intended to stick it out till Mr. Blank 
returned when something unexpected caused 
me to resign with lightning celerity. One can 
pay too much for the crust of bread that is 
called a living. One has to keep alive; but 
when you sacrifice everything to that end, life 



A HAPPY WOMAN 205 

has an ironical way of fooling you. He that 
loveth his life shall lose it! Buttons, who was 
my sole companion in the office, came in with 
a card one day, a lady wanted to see Mr. Blank. 
I told him to tell her he was not at home. But- 
tons reported that *'the lady was cryin^ " and 
said she ''had to see somebody." I told him 
to show her in. The minute she entered, I 
knew the type, ''placed her,'^ as w^e said in the 
West, upper middle-class English, coming out 
to lord it and ending as pauper; the type that 
will never cease to stamp on the hands coming 
up below and never cease to kiss the soles of 
the feet on the rung above; that scorns "shop'^ 
and "trade" and lives by bank or some office 
rule of thumb, and never attains anything more 
than remote connection w^ith a hyphenated Sir 
Somebody — Somebody. She was in deep 
mourning and visibly w^eeping. 

They had bought land from Mr. Blank's com- 
pany, and promptly paid all the instalments 
but this year's, which w^as the last. Her hus- 
band had died, w^hich stopped the remittances ; 
but on this year's pajTuent her husband had 
sent the wdiole of his last remittance (I remem- 
bered it; I had had to change the pounds, shil- 
lings and pence to exactly $133.33 1-3) ; and he 
had given his note for the balance. They had 
not received the title to their property; but 



206 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

was not a note payment in the eyes of the law? 
Didn't they really own their property; and 
wasn't the proper procedure for Mr. Blank to 
collect the note against the estate? 

I asked her to wait a moment while I looked 
up the land book. There was the receipt held 
back against the note; and on the deposit slip 
was the $133.33 1-3 placed in Mr. Blank's 
private account. I had an impulse to take the 
receipt out and give it to her. It is one of the 
blunders I have never forgiven myself that I 
didn't; but I wanted to be sure before acting; 
and asked her who her husband's executors 
were. They were Mr. Blank and the managers 
of the two banks, where he deposited his money. 
Like a flash, I decided to go to that manager, 
who was a friend, tell him those suspicions that 
had now been again roused, and ask his advice. 
I told her to come back the next afternoon, and 
I would try and w^ire Mr. Blank. 

It was mid-day. I had not gone a block down 
the main street before I saw that something 
terrible was wrong. There was a crowd of peo- 
ple like a mob, struggling, tossing in solid 
masses across the middle of the road. 

^^ What's the matter?" I asked our friend of 
that $900 loan. 

' ' Nothing ! It 's come 1 That 's all, ' ' he said. 

^^ What's come?" 



A HArPY WOMAN 207 

*^The smash! There's a run on three banks 
now; and I'll bet a dozen close their doors be- 
fore three o'clock." 

We were in the middle of the maelstrom of 
'93. Our friend's bank was one of the first to 
smash. He was ruined to his last dime. Some- 
what breathless and terribly puzzled to know 
what to do, I hurried back to the office building 
and was just in time to see the patent leathers 
and gray spats of Mr. Blank's feet going up the 
elevator shaft. I followed on the next lift and 
bounced into the office genuinely glad to see him 
back; and in a few w^ords told him why and 
what I had been about to do. He drew a little 
long whistle and stood looking down at the run 
on the bank in the street. 

''Better go home, now," he said. ''Nothing 
more doing to-day. I'll look that case up." 

Knowing that the woman would call the next 
day, I made a point of reaching the office early. 

"Oh, did you look up that case, Mr. Blank?" 
I asked. 

' ' Why yes ; and, for the first time, I find you 
in error," he answered. 

"But no, Mr. Blank, look here at the land 
book." 

"All right, let us see," he said, coming out 
to the high wall desk, where the land book lay. 

I turned over to the page. It was not cut 



208 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

out. I was dumfounded. It was not there. The 
whole page was literally and utterly gone, it 
must have been clipped round the binding 
wires; for there was not a scar of it left. I 
turned over the bundle of receipts held against 
payment of notes. The receipt, too, was gone. 
^^Ah-lia," he smiled suavely. "It's such a 
joke to find you wrong, I'll forgive you." 

I did not answer and I did not hesitate. In- 
stinct strikes surer than reason in such cases. 
I went back to my office and I sat down and 
I wrote exactly seven words, "I hereby beg to 
resign my position." I carried this in to Mr. 
Blank. He read it and seemed not to com- 
prehend, put on his glasses and read it again. 
His hand trembled a little and he flushed deep 
with anger. Sitting down, he drew his check 
book over and had written my week's wages 
when he suddenly remembered and laughed. 

"Not much use for checks now," he said. 
Opening his pocketbook, he handed me $25 in 
bills. I said good-bye to him and wished him 
well. He said good-bye to me and wished me 
well; and that is the last I saw of Mr. Blank. 
He, too, went into the undertow of that mael- 
strom before the panic had passed; but please 
note the point, in order to place $133.33 1-3 to 
his own personal account in time of stress, he 



A HAPPY WOMAN 209 

permitted that woman to lose a property worth 
$5,000 all of which had been paid for but a few 
hundred dollars; and those hundred dollars in 
the eyes of the law had been paid by a note. 

It was not till I was out on the street walk- 
ing home that I figured out that, over and above 
the money needed for the lame duck, for the 
medical fees and home, there was barely $50 
left; but the thing I have always asked myself 
is this: 

Supposing I had had no prayers to fend off 
the harpies and the hells; no invisible white 
hands of love holding me close and warm; no 
circle of strong and loving friends to gird my 
life about with a wall of defense ; no home ; no 
place to go ; no money ; nothing between me and 
hell but the park bench, as thousands, tens of 
thousands, millions of wage-earning girls in the 
big cities are hemmed by poverty and harried 
by vice, how would I have escaped from the 
trap? Palaver of philanthropic school how to 
gather up mangled remains, files of reports by 
investigating commissions w^ould not have 
saved me. Could I have stayed in that office 
and participated in its crookedness, and given 
innocent front to its indecency; and not have 
been contaminated in soul by so doing? And 
so when a sister, big or little, goes down under 
the wheels of the car, falls by the way, fouls 



210 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

the stainless garments of lier womanliood, 
stones shall we hurl at those who fall ; or ashes 
of shame shall we cast on our own guilty heads 
of respectability that we have let even as little 
as the weakest and the poorest fall unhindered 
by the way? 



A HAPPY WOMAN 211 



CHAPTER Vn 

THE SISTERHOOD OF SERVICE 

By the time I had turned over books and 
keys, and put things to rights in the office of 
the financial promoter, it was twelve o'clock. 

The office building was situated just where 
four great thoroughfares converged into a 
main street, like Broadway, New York, at 
42nd Street; or Y^essler Way, Seattle. Work- 
ers were pouring out for the noon hour from 
the leather and cigar factories across the 
bridge, from the big departmental stores, and 
from the insurance buildings. There were lit- 
erally myriads of young girls. I had never no- 
ticed them so closely before that day, when for 
the first time I felt myself a part of the great 
army of the new economic era, when for the 
first time I felt the solidarity and cohesiveness 
of this great World of Work. 

I watched the throngs pouring out for the 
noon hour. I do not need to tell you, do I, 
that the women and girls in the offices wore airs 
of grand duchesses of the Vere de Vere type 



S12 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

to the women and girls of the departmenta 
stores; and that the women and girls of th( 
departmental stores wore the grand duchess 
air to the women and girls from the factories; 
and I suppose the women and girls of the fac- 
tories would try the same airs on the scrubbies 
of the basement, snobs all the way down the 
scale, trampling one another 's chances. Yet al 
were fellow workers in the great new economic 
army of the World of Work. What menacec 
one menaced all. Laws defective for one were 
defective for all. Lack of protection that might 
injure one might likewise injure each, or any, 
or all of that army of workers. Men had their 
lodges, their fraternities, their labor unions, to 
help in time of stress ; but this army of women 
workers, more easily menaced because they 
were women, what had they? They had not 
even a standard of physical fitness ; of personal 
defense; of value in the eyes of the law as an 
economic asset to the nation. These were the 
mothers of the coming race ; yet the law would 
punish the maiming of a cow with fourteen 
years ' imprisonment ; the maiming of a woman 
or girl with two years ; the theft of a colt with 
five years' imprisonment; the theft of a little 
girl worker, abduction, I believe, is the ugly 
word describing it, with two years' imprison- 
ment. 



A IIArPV WOMAN 213 

Of the 450,000 pt^oplo, more or loss, who will 
have to pay an income tax in the United States, 
it is estimated that less than 40,000 are women. 
Of the wage-earners in the United States, seven 
millions are women. Standing on the street 
corner, watching the army of women workers, 
it did not require prophetic foresight to gauge 
the revolution in values bound to come when 
this army of w^omen w^orkers weakens to a con- 
sciousness of its own solidarity and cohesive- 
ness, wakens to that freemasonry of comrade- 
ship that exists among all classes of men, with- 
out any confusion of coal scuttles with silver 
spoons. 

There and then I took my resolution. As 
between this little coterie of women whom the 
world called "favored, protected," and this 
great army w^hom the w^orld called "workers," 
unprotected themselves, but protecting others, 
I took my stand with the workers. 

Why? 

They stood for plus. 

They represented a marching army, progress 
forw^ard, not that stationary excellence for 
wdiicli reactionaries fight and which to me 
means atrophy to the powers of the soul. 

They needed help, and, more than help, they 
needed the comprehension, not of charity, but 
of independent, self-respecting comradeship. 



214 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Then, if the Christ-creed was to be anything 
more than an anochme for an uneasy con- 
science, what ranks offered better scope for the 
helpfulness and service of that creed than this 
army of women workers? 

Also, there was another reason. It came fal- 
teringly then. It comes falteringly to-day. 
The modern world has literally been robbing 
the home of woman's vocations for fifty years. 
Nursing, teaching, mending, weaving, butter- 
making, plain house-keeping — have been sup- 
planted by the hospital with the professional 
nurse, the school with the professional teacher, 
factory clothing, factory weaving, factory food, 
the departmental store, the apartment house. 
If the process of robbing the home of woman's 
vocations continues \\dth the accelerated prog- 
ress of the last fifty years, will the day not 
come when the unoccupied woman, the rich 
woman, the woman who has not married, or 
whose children have grown and gone out of 
the home ; when the girl who wants an occu- 
pation and is past the teens when fripperies 
fill an occupation, will the day not come when 
this smaller coterie of women will ask permis- 
sion to come down and out of their idleness into 
this army of service? Isn't this practically the 
meaning of '^the get-together" clubs in every 



A HAPPY WOMAN 215 

city in the United States, where the women 
who work and the women who don^t meet for 
mutual helpfulness? Isn't it the meaning of 
the terrible divorce court tragedies of the idle 
hands? Lady Bountiful, passing out largess 
with kid gloves and a forty-rod pole, is not 
needed as ensign-carrier in this army. Charity 
is always cheaper than justice. What is needed 
is not charity. What is needed is a new no- 
blesse oblige; to teach the toilers to sing songs 
of joy again over their looms; a Sisterhood, 
not of Discontent, but of Service, in which the 
weakest and the poorest and the meanest will 
be girt with the defence of the strongest in 
time of stress and danger. Will women work 
this problem out, as men have worked it out in 
their fraternities? 

It sounds easy, this resolution; but it wasn't. 
Of a very large connection on both sides of 
the house, w^e were the only family where a 
woman ever became a wage-earner. It was bad 
enough to be obliged to do it; but to glory in 
it! I can hear some of the spurious wails yet. 
One good relative, I recall, w^arned me it would 
totally ruin my manners for society. Another 
good dame, who was not related and had just 
come West in time to receive a tail-end blow 
from the Panic, used to sit bewailing by the 
hour that her ^'dear girls should ever need to 



216 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

work." She bad set her face like flint against 
that need, telling her daughters it was the duty 
of ''father and brothers to take the blasts of 
the world, '^ till the father took so many blasts 
that he ran away to New York with an adven- 
turess ; and one son carried the load till he used 
government funds of which he was custodian, 
so that his mother had to mortgage her home 
to keep him out of the penitentiary ; and a sec- 
ond son ran away from home to escape an im- 
possible burden. When the third son married 
and left the sisters in the lurch, they turned 
out and wished they had met the challenge of 
fate half way before. 

Another woman, I recall, who had been a 
somewhat famous opera singer in her day and 
married a financial broker in our city, perhaps 
more decent than Mr. Blank but also more flam- 
boyant, was so determined that the world 
should not know they had been hit by the panic 
that she moved her entire establishment over 
to the new palatial hotel which the railroad 
had built, and there entertained elaborately and 
dressed as of old in Paris imported gowns, and 
set her face like flint against the new order. 
Perhaps, it was her way of helping her broker 
husband not to lose his customers. Perhaps, 
it was her way of working, though she de- 
claimed that under no circumstances should a 



A HAPPY WOMAN 217 

woman over bocomo a wai^o-oarner ; but no one 
was bluffed but the bluffer. We all knew that 
the hotel carried their account for $10,000 that 
year, in return for her husband's influence as a 
lobbyist in railroad matters; and the strain of 
pretending she had what she hadn't sent her 
to a Paris nerve specialist at the end of a year, 
where only the agility of a nurse prevented 
suicide during nervous depression. Personally, 
I think that woman worked a great deal harder 
for her living than those of us who openly 
joined the army of wage-earners. 

I remember telling a very dear woman rela- 
tive my resolution to fight for the army of 
wage-earners as well as with them and of the 
dangers that must menace many a lonely girl 
worker who had no strong circle of loyal 
friends to gird her round with companion-ship 
and safety. 

*^Why do girls go into employments where 
there are such dangerous associates?" she de- 
manded indignantly. ''No girl ought to be 
exposed to such dangers. No girl ought to 
leave her home, if there are such dangers out- 
side it." 

My answer I wrote in one of those little au- 
tograph albums which were the rage at the 



218 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

time. At the top of the page I penned her 
words — Girls Ought not to Go into Employ- 
ments Where There are Dangers I Below I 
wTote one of the rhymes, that now hummed 
through my head of nights in place of old Solo- 
mon's epigrams: 

"Good maxims, these, for those who need them not! 
If hounds be hard on heel of deer, then what? 
When spurs dig deep in bleeding sides, the horse grows hot. ' ' 

* * The deer pursued ne 'er halts at brink of bank, 
The horse hard-pressed can 't choose to stay in rank, 
Tho' wall too high or ditch too broad may break a shank." 

Having been entrenched with the triple pro- 
tection of father, husband, brother, I know she 
had not the faintest idea what I meant. 

I did not get off the car opposite my home. 
I rode to the end of the car track and walked 
out on the prairie, where the purple wind flow- 
ers were just breaking through the snow. I 
wanted to walk in the tossing rough spring 
wind and to think in the clean open spaces. 

What reason had I to give for resigning a 
twelve-hundred a year job in time of such finan- 
cial stress? I had been bound to the wheel, 
and had at one stroke cut the bonds. You can't 
explain that Astarte and Moloch may have re- 
incarnations in our modern system dangerous 



A HAPPY WOMAN 219 

to youth as the old circle of fire and drugged 
wines. Some future historian will narrate that 
of our day. We, ourselves, refuse to take cog- 
nizance of it. No man, or woman, has battled 
out the contest of life without meeting the same 
challenge. It is the eternal challenge. Our 
temptation to barter what we know is right for 
the crust of bread called a living always 
comes, when we are in the wilderness spent of 
body and soul; when we feel that those we love 
are dependent on the selling of our souls. 

''Do the fool-thing and expect God to per- 
form a miracle to save you! Jump over the 
precipice of right and wrong; then expect 
Heaven to save a smash ; as you, perhaps, have 
saved others!" Heaven doesn't! There is no 
fence of miracles round Life's precipice, though 
we break our necks to save those we love! 
Don't think you'll meet the challenge only once ! 
You'll meet it every day you are in the game 
of life ; not as do\\Tiright and honest spoken as 
Satan in the wilderness. That's why I like 
the clean-cut way Christ sent Satan about his 
business! Most of us haven't that sense! 

When I reached home two or three friends 
had come in for afternoon tea. An animated 
discussion was going on about somebody who 
had lost a position in civil service through the 



220 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

hard times. ^^You don't think there would be 
any chance in your office T' someone asked. 

' ^ There might be, ' ' I answered. ^ ' I have just 
resigned.'' 

If I had thrown a bomb into that little group, 
I couldn't have caused greater consternation. 

*'Well," gasped one auditor, who belonged to 
that category of women whom George Adam 
Smith has described as ^'the cow that tramples 
more corn than it can ever eat." "Whom the 
gods wish to destroy they first make mad." 

Only two people did not agree with her; my 
mother, who did not speak at all, and that 
daughter of a friend to whom I have already 
referred — the girl with ''I won't," born on her 
very lips. 

It is sometimes a good thing to have the 
spirit to challenge life before it challenges you. 
This youngster had jumped into the discussion 
with her sleeves rolled up before I had a chance 
to offer any explanation. 

' ' You did perfectly right, ' ' she burst out. * * I 
wouldn't stick in an old office in your state of 
health. What's a salary if you give your 
life for it? Industry be diddled," she assever- 
ated with a stamp. ''I guess the life of one 
single soul is of more value than all industry, 
if Christ wasn't a big liar! I guess there is 
something more in life than plugging for a liv- 



A HAPPY WOMAN 221 

ing! I want to live: not merely exist! Any 
girl is a fool who drudges along without a try 
at bettering her position — I don't care what it 
is. As to sacrificing herself ! Bah ! Sheep and 
the shambles ! I hate sheep types ! If I were 
in that kind of trap, I'd jump out if I had to 
break my neck '^ 

'^You might break your neck/' wailed the 
woman who had thought it criminal of anyone 
under any circumstances to resign a gainful 
occupation in such hard times. 

''Then, I'd sooner break my neck and have 
one breath of real life than live a life of per- 
petual imprisonment; and I'll bet Christ would 
back me if He were here to-day," vowed this 
prenatal rebel. 

As we all knew she lived up to her creed of 
defying life's challenges, a laugh greeted this 
sally. 

She waited till the others had left. 

''I bet a hill of beans, you couldn't stand that 
old shin plaster another minute," she at once 
exploded. Her whole life was an explosion of 
temper and laughter and tears and storms and 
actions. I used to wonder if she were still 
when she slept. 

''Mr. Blank is one of the kindest " 

"Waugh," she interrupted in Sioux lingo; 
*'but he yappies too much. He's kind first, last 



2^2 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

and altogether for what he gets in retnm for 
himself; and you know it; and don't yon lie 
about it! What are you going to doT' 

^ ' Hike for the higher altitudes, I guess, where 
the ozone is champagne/' 

She bounced almost out of her boots. 

**You are to come back to the ranch with 
me." She was living on a ranch at the foot- 
hills of the Rockies. 

^'I declare if I have to go back there alone, 
I'm going to cultivate conversation with jack 
rabbits and coyotes." 

I tried to stem her torrent and explain that 
when medical debts and lame ducks and home 
had been cared for there would be less than 
$50 left, and that a semi-invalid would be a 
nuisance and a burden in a home where the 
only help obtainable consisted of disreputable 
old squaws ; but she swept my objections aside 
in a torrent. Fifty dollars was loads and bush- 
els and stacks of money. She almost insinu- 
ated that if we had more we wouldn't know 
what to do with it. We could use the ranch 
horses and rent an extra saddle for the sum- 
mer at $5; she thought it probable that she 
could borrow an extra saddle. Her brother was 
in the railroad offices. It seemed the business 
of the ranch was to sell beef cattle to the din- 



A HAPPY WOAIAN 223 

in.2^ car (lepartmont; and she would go and soe 
the divisional superintendent and obtain a pass 
that very week. She was as <j!:oo(\ as her word. 
She left for the mountains the next day; and 
posted a pass back to me inside a month. 

Now, the question I ask myself is this — sup- 
posing I had not had a pre-natal rebel for a 
friend; would I not also have passed to the 
immeasurable human scrap heap? Supposing 
when I closed that other door to wrong oppor- 
tunity ('Svinnow not with every wind'' said 
the prophet) that her indomitable spirit had 
not unlatched the other door as you and I and 
all of us of the Sisterhood of Service can un- 
latch without cost or effort to ourselves, doors 
of opportunity to the cul-de-sac of other lives, 
would I not have perished in the trap, or died 
bound to the wheel, as thousands, tens of thou- 
sands of lives perish every year for want of 
a little dauntless though tfulness? 

I had set out in life wanthig passioyiately to 
knoiv if suffering ivere necessary, challenging 
the pious blasphemy that it ivas God's will 
womeyi should suffer ill; and I had come far 
enough along the road to hnoiv that the most 
of misery is unnecessary, entirely human and 
hand-made, quite as much of it resulting from 
fumble fingers and thick brains as from devil- 



224< THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

tries; and the most of it from sheer dense ego- 
istical stupidity. 

I had learned that you canH break law; it 
hreaJcs you; hut I had to go a pace farther along 
the road before I found the way out that ^'na- 
ture ever faithful is to such as trust her faith- 
fidness^^ ; that, if you hick against law, you'll 
only baric your shins; but that if you harness 
laiv and steer with it, not against it, there is no 
harbor of human happiness whither you may 
not sail. 

It all cost some horribly acute growing pains 
of the soul. Don't grin in a superior fashion! 
Those who have not had growing pains may- 
still have their growing to do; and wisdom 
teeth come hardest when they come latest. It 
was the change from a fetish faith to a faith in 
a Larger God that gave me my worst growing 
pains at this period. Sometimes, out in the 
mountains, flat on my back in the sun, while the 
horse grazed at the end of a tethering rope, 
this sort of thing would come to me faster 
than I could write it in a book I usually car- 
ried in the saddle bag and read at noon: 

**What profit late to learn 
To port we might have sailed, 
When wisdom to discern 
Was lacking till we failed? 



A HAPPY WOMAN 225 

"Are we frail jetsam cast 
Mere toys upon the wave? 
Are souls, which Thou hast made, 
Too poor for Thee to save?" 

Or this : 

' ' And if I have faith but as one gi-ain of seed, 
I shall say to this mountainous thing in my way, 
'Be removed to the depths of the sea'; and with speed 
To obey, it uprises and sinks 'neath the spray! 

"If all faith work through law, and without works be dead, 
Then, the plan of two worlds is consistent, and man 
Must couple his schemes on the track of law 's tread 
For since time began, not a jot nor a tittle hath failed of 
God's plan." 

The night I resigned, when I sat down to 
read to my mother (we had neither of us men- 
tioned the fact of my resignation), I opened 
George Adam Smith's poetic interpretation of 
''Isaiah" as the epic poem of a race adjured 
by the passionate and inspired singer to come 
back from the whoring after false ideals, please 
note that word "whoring," and grow to the 
stature of its national destiny. (Of course, we 
do not need such passionate, inspired singers 
to-day for a money-mad age whirling dervish 
dances round the umbilical cord of its own ego.) 

The first words I read were, ''In returning 
and rest shall be your confidence." I turned 



226 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

a few pages, where Smith has rendered the 
original in English blank verse. "For the bed 
is shorter than that a man can stretch him- 
self on; the covering narrower than he can 
wrap himself in. 



? J 



My mother had the most calming presence I 
have ever known in a human being. She was 
sitting with her long slim white hands folded 
in her lap. The red of the lamp shade seemed 
to accentuate the chiseled white profile in the 
half dark of the room. 

"I am glad you resigned," she said. "I felt 
all along that the time would come when you 
would. It has served its purpose." 

"And when one door closes behind?" I asked. 

"When the half gods go, the true gods 
come," she answered with that faith of the lit- 
tle child, which cannot doubt. "Read those 
lines of George Adam Smith again." 

"They are not Professor Smith's. They are 
the prophet's: In returning and rest shall be 
your confidence : For the bed is shorter than 
that a man can stretch himself on; the cover- 
ing narrower than he can wrap himself in. ' ' 

"I wonder if that is why we go askew?" she 
asked. "I wonder if God's plans are so much 
bigger than our creeds that like new wine they 
burst the old bottles!" 



A HAPPY WOMAN 227 

^'Wbat do you think the first means?" I 
asked her. 

She sat perfectly still witliout answering for 
a moment; then smiled as quietly as if my 
little world of faith had not smashed down ; as 
if, indeed, the panic had not torn the little 
world of the whole half million population of 
the state at that time up by the roots like a 
plowshare driven through an ant hill. 

''Read it again," she said. 

'*In returning and rest shall be your confi- 
dence ! ' ' 

''It means," she said, "what you are going 
to do when you go to the mountains and cast 
yourself in confidence and peace on the eternal 
laws of God." 

And that is exactly what happened. I can 
no more describe the process of healing in body 
and soul than you can describe the process of 
rebirth when a night rain falls on parched 
ground and all the slumbering seedlings come 
through with green hands that clap in glad- 
ness to wind and sun. A wise old canoeman 
once said to me: "Never fight rapids, paddle 
like hell till you catch the current that will 
swerve you away from the rocks, then lie back 
and let her go and take your ease!" 

It is utterly the same with life. Work like 



228 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

the furies incarnate, if you like, till you learn 
what the law is, what the trend of it is ! Catch 
that, and it will carry you past all rocks, per- 
haps not to the haven of your desire, but to 
the destiny to which the current of the law 
carries, whither you have to go willy-nilly; and 
whether you arrive whole or smashed depends 
on whether you go with the current of Grod's 
law or against it ! 

My friend was a tonic. She fought and 
jounced my convictions at every turn as I 
fought hers, which is infinitely better than the 
softening sympathy that turns pity in on self. 
If you died with her, you would have to die in 
3^our boots and on the run; for she kept you 
out morning, noon and night. So much of our 
misery comes from the corrosion of acid 
discontent in the repose of our better natures 
that this activity, giving no time for morbid 
thought, went far toward healing. I defy you 
to sit on a spirited horse with a morbid liver 
or a peeved self-pitying soul! You have to 
take hold of yourself; or you will break your 
neck. 

Also, it was a stage in the West's develop- 
ment that can never again be repeated in Amer- 
ican history. Frontier was giving way to 
pioneer. Ranch lands, where one cow had had 



A HArrV WOMAN 229 

roaming ground over a thousand acres were 
being carved up into the settlers' quarter sec- 
tions. The newspapers were still disputing as 
to whether farmers could grow wheat in the 
dry inter-mountain empire. The first trans- 
continental to cross the Divide in this part 
of the Rockies had just been completed; 
and the hordes of Chinese and Italian navvies 
had scattered to the lumber mills and mines of 
the mountains. I remember after turbid spring 
floods and summer thaw bringing down the 
snow of the upper peaks, at the period when 
the tin-horn gambling hells and saloon dance 
halls were running full blast, of a Monday 
morning after a Sunday celebration, as many 
as ten dead ''Chinks" would be washed up on 
the sand bars in the river. Sometimes the 
dead man washed up would be white. Even 
then, few inquiries were made. If you didn't 
want to go over the precipice, keep away from 
the edge; for there was no mistaking the red 
light of danger on that edge! 

Yet, with it all, womanhood was safer than 
in the padded parlors of civilization. Why? 
I asked my friend's brother that question 
once. 

"Because every man jack in this camp knows 
that if he as much as looked disrespect at a de- 
cent woman, he would be cut into scraps in 



230 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

about two seconds ; and there would be no cor- 
oners ' inquest," he answered savagely. 

I had a forcible illustration of this not long 
after I went out. My friend and her brother 
were going for a Sunday to one of the silver 
camps up from the foothills half way to 
heaven, as he expressed it. We had set out 
at daybreak on Saturday with the peak where 
we were going plainly ahead of us, but we lost 
sight of it when we left the foothills and 
plunged into the heavy hemlock forests to cork- 
screw up a zig-zag trail barely wide enough 
for a horse. Fool hens, or mountain grouse, 
flumped up heavily and bobbed and nodded 
at us from logs by the side of the trail. Mar- 
mot would come scrabbling up from the rocks 
and whistle shrilly as a school boy. Sometimes 
3^ou heard a raucous cry overhead, and, looking 
up, you could see through the gray-green Span- 
ish moss, a bald-head eagle perched lonely on 
the topmost tip of a dead branch. Here, a turn 
in the corkscrew trail opened vistas to the 
upper peaks shining opalescent in a cloudless 
sky. There, you had skirted the sharp elbow 
of a precipice ; and were neck deep in fog thick 
as wool at cloud line. Another pace and turn, 
you were above cloudline in the flawless sun- 
shine aarain. Wherever a coulee cut and 



A HAPPY WOMAN 231 

trenclied down the mountain slope, there you 
would see the rough prospectors with their 
sacks of tools following- the "float," or signs 
of metal, up the stream bed to the head veins. 
In this way, the most wonderful galena veins 
of that country had been found. Washed or 
unwashed, shaven or rough with weeks in the 
wilds, at sight of a woman, the roughest man's 
hat would come off. Even the Chinks would 
stand off the trail and simper a "How-do." It 
wasn't air we were breathing. It was some 
compound of distilled sunbeams brewed up with 
about a thousand years of oil of healing from 
the pines. Every switch-back on the trail, we 
would pause and give our horses a breath. I 
drank and drank great breaths of the dew- 
washed resinous air. My friend looked over 
her shoulder and kicked her feet free from her 
stirrups to ease her horse. 

"Isn't it a scrumptious joy to be alive and 
kicking?" she said. 

It was such a scrumptious joy I was begin- 
ning to wonder in what nightmare prison of 
my own personality I had been chained back 
there in that other life. Wasn't that the trouble 
in this restless life of pressure in the cities — 
humans ivere chained up to serve things, in- 
stead of the things being chained up to serve 
the humans? Freedom beckoned to us from the 



g32 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

glad world of the out-doors ; and we sat gloom- 
ing in our own self-created despairs till eyes 
could not see God for our maudlin tears! 

Just where the trail ran into the long single 
street of a raw, new, unpainted mining town, 
built with the back doors overhanging the brink 
of a brawling mountain brook, a fog came drift- 
ing out of the pass followed by a drenching 
rain. My friends were not sure that a drench- 
ing rain would be good for me at that stage 
of the game on a two days' trip, and asked if 
I would mind staying in the hotel of the little 
mining town for the night, while they went on 
up to the silver camp fifteen miles farther. The 
brother was to collect the money on some 
beeves shipped in, and the sister did not like 
him to come down that trail alone with so much 
ready money on his person. I told them to go 
ahead, by all means. It would be fun to see 
the new camp. 

^'I would not go out after dark if I were 
you," called the brother, as I took refuge under 
the hotel veranda. ''Saturday is pay day, you 
know, all the miners and lumber jacks will be 
down from the hills." 

The hotel had board partitions of one ply, 
unpainted; and there was not a door in the 
house with a lock. After dinner, I propped a 
chair back under the door knob of my room 



J 



A HAPPY WOMAN 233 

so that it could not move without wakening me ; 
and I fell into a sleep to defy the crack of 
doom. The grand duchess, who kept the hotel, 
and I were the only two women in a harum- 
scarum poi^uUition of al)out two thousand ; that 
is, the only two women except some little 
painted, almond-eyed girls across the way in 
a Japanese dsLnce-hall, I believe they called it. 
It should have been called hell. 

I seemed to hear the pour of the rain in my 
sleep, the roar of the brook, the tap-tap of lit- 
tle feet across the w^ay to the strumming of 
some strange oriental string music, when I sud- 
denly came awake to an explosion like a powder 
blast. The rain had ceased. Moon light sil- 
vered the room; and the brook tore behind the 
house less boisterously as of deeper waters; 
but the roar filled the canyon and shook the 
house. The lumber jacks and miners had come 
down from the hills; and I do not think there 
was a faucet or spiggot or bottle or barrel, or 
saloon or gambling joint, that was not doing a 
w^ide-open business all that night. The houses 
could not roof a tenth of the population. Men 
were auctioning whisky in tin cups from the 
tops of kegs in mid-road. They were gam- 
bling and dancing and sitting and sleeping in 
every variety of posture in the open street. 
They reminded me of a disturbed ant hill or 



234 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

caterpillar nest. It was a bit boisterous; so 
I did not go do^vn for supper; but sleep was 
out of the question. The barroom was directly 
under me and I could see what was going on 
through cracks in the floor. 

Toward midnight, the drunks were fighting 
drunk. I thought they had exhausted 'Hhe 
swears'' of every language under the sun 
earlier in the evening; but when a stiletto 
drunk Italian and a shillalah drunk Irishman 
began shouting in unexpurgated vernacular on 
exactly which part of each other's anatomy 
they intended to vent their international love, 
anything I had heard before seemed like a 
school's first reader compared to an unabridged 
Webster. Just when a yell seemed to forewarn 
instant murder, there was a scuffle-scuffle of feet. 
Two bodies seemed to be dragged toward the 
railing of the back piazza above the brawling 
brook. There was a thud, then a splash, then 
tremendous roars of laughter; another thud, 
another splash, more shouts; and the crowds 
rushed back to the barroom for drinks all 
round. Good fellowship would last till a Polack 
and Eussian, a Jap and Chinaman, would begin 
discussing each other's ancestry in colloquial 
westernisms. Then, the thud and the splash 
would repeat themselves. This lasted without 



A HAPPY WOMAN 235 



breathing space till five Sunday morning, when 
the chill of the mountain air drove the rioters 
back up the hills, that is, those of the rioters 
who could still use their legs. Hundreds lay 
sprawled in the roadway or curled up on sa- 
loon steps sound asleep. 

A knock came on my door at six, the bar- 
room below was still brawling louder than the 
brook, and the Chinese waiter from the dining 
room asked me if I w^ould please ^'come down 
and have bleakfast at once ; my palty from the 
mines would be down in a few time, and I was 
to meet them at the end of the camp t'wail a 
mile out." 

I hadn 't time to tell him to send breakfast up 
before he trotted downstairs; and I didn^t rel- 
ish passing the open barroom door, whence the 
smell of rum came reeking up stronger than a 
gin mill and the brawling outsounded the 
brook. Someone must have heard me coming 
down the stair; for the bar-tender rapped on 
the bar with a glass. '^Lady's coming, shut up, 
gents," I heard him order, as I dived past the 
door into the dining-room; and ^'the gents 
shut up" so hard and quick you could have 
heard a pin fall while I was at breakfast. 

A cowboy stood at the door with my horse. 
He helped me to the saddle and told me where 
to find my party waiting a mile down the trail. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

The road was literally littered with unconscious 
drunks. '^Set tight to the leather and keep a 
sure stirrup,'' he advised. ^'Some of them 
booze-busters might scare your broncho!" 

I gave the horse a little kick to put him past 
the saloon fronts quickly; and he shot out so 
suddenly that away flew my watch. Before I 
could turn the horse round, a dozen men were 
on their feet to get it. The grizzled fellow who 
handed it to me took off his hat and wished me 
a pleasant trip. 

The incident was typical of the West in its 
wildest era. A woman was safer than in a 
missionary meeting or a young ladies' semi- 
nary, that is, a woman who was not a fool. A 
woman who was a fool, or careless of the re- 
spect due her womanhood, could have all the 
folly on tap in the shortest time possible. At 
the very period when the mountains were in- 
fested with discarded gangs of nav\des and 
roving prospectors women had begun taking 
up homesteads. You came on their tiny log 
cabins in the big timber country; or their ten 
by ten shacks anchored to the prairie by posts 
at each end, as you rode down from the foot- 
hills. 

One trail my friend and I used to follow 
passed half a dozen shanties of girl homestead- 



A HAPPY WOMAN 2.^7 

ers in a ride of forty miles. The thing that 
struck me was how many of these girls were 
foreign-born, naturalized citizens. 

*^Why do you think that is?" I asked. ''Why 
don't American girls do that sort of thing 
more? To be bound to the industrial wheel 
isn't much more independent than the old 
game." 

She reined up her horse and thought a mo- 
ment. 

''Oh, convention has such a strangle-hold 
and we're so democratic," she explained, "that 
we spend most of our time hanging on with 
our eyebrows for fear we lose caste." 

"You don't," I answered. "When your 
brother and the cow-boys were away last winter 
and the blizzards came up, you rode out and 
rounded up the whole herd." 

"But would I have done so if we had lived 
Down East where everybody would have cocked 
an eye at me? Don't I do what I sweet please 
out here because we are so secure of our po- 
sition that nothing matters?" 

"Then you think that it's the women up at 
the top and the women down at the bottom, 
not the half-way-ups, that will get rid of that 
strangle-hold for women and form the great 
Sisterhood of Service?" 

"I don't know w^hat you mean by Sisterhood 



238 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

of Service! I don't think women are ever very- 
sisterly to one another! You're always shoot- 
ing some transcendental sky-rocket past my 
head into clouds ; but if you want to know what 
I think of half-way-ups, I think they'll always 
fool you; they are so scared out of their wits 
they might slip down a peg." 

*^ Let's go in and meet some of these home- 
steaders," I suggested. 

^^All right! We'll water our horses here! I 
know this girl, she is teaching the district 
school, while she puts in her homestead du- 
ties." 

We dismounted opposite a gate formed of 
two posts looped with strands of wire. A ro- 
bust woman of twenty-four, or thereabouts, 
tanned and weathered by wind and sun, came to 
the shanty door. Life had been cut free from 
all strangle-hold of the artificial here. Shanty 
and equipment could not have cost more than 
$50. A biscuit box had been extemporized into 
a book shelf, where lay two or three magazines, 
a Balzac and a Bible. The bed had been built 
sailor-berth fashion against the wall. Another 
box set up on four crossed legs formed the 
table, from which we shared her evening meal 
of bacon and eggs. From the window covered 
with dimity curtains we could see her broncho 



A HAPPY WOMAN 239 

tethered out on the prairie. A big dog lay 
snapping at tlie flies in the sun. It seemed, she 
had begun life as an operative in a watch fac- 
tory in Switzerland. Then, she had taught a 
tiny hamlet school in her native land. 

''But the wages were not $25 a month," she 
explained. "I could never get ahead on that. 
What's the use of a woman pretending she is 
independent, unless she is independent! So I 
emigrated, came steerage ; and worked my way 
out here somehow, and got a position in a mis- 
sion school at $50 a month; but if women are 
going to be independent, they must study out 
ways of being independent, the w^ay a man does ; 
so I thought I might as w^ell be putting in home- 
stead duties while I taught, and get some sit- 
fast spot on earth I could call my own. This 
is my last year of homesteading. Next year, I 
prove up for title." 

''Will you sell?" I asked. Later on, land 
in the locality of this woman's homestead, sold 
at $50 an acre. 

''But no," she answered. "I want an ingle- 
nook of my own always. I'll bring out my 
father and mother." 

She told us that except for midsummer, when 
a friend from the nearest town joined her, 
she lived alone, riding to and from the mission 
school on her broncho. 



240 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

*^0f course/* she said, ^^on winter nights, 
the coyotes smell the ham cooking and come 
howling under the window ; but my big St. Ber- 
nard drives them off; and I don't know that 
there is as much to fear from these sort of 
wolves as from the kind of wolves you meet 
in town," and she laughed. 

I suppose she felt our attitude of tacit chal- 
lenge. Her words recalled those dream wolves 
of my childhood, Anxious Fright and Want, 
which this form of economic independence 
drove off the heels of pursued womanhood. Her 
words also recalled the dire predictions of 
the study chair theorists about individualism 
menacing motherhood and the economic inde- 
pendence of woman modifying the tendency to 
marriage, and so leaving the propagation of 
the species to inferior types — you have heard 
the arguments — haven't you? If I had put 
it that way, she would not have known at what 
I was driving; so I came at it another way. 

**Yes," I said, as we helped her to clean up 
her supper dishes before going back to our 
saddles, ^'but if you had stayed on in Switzer- 
land, you would probably have married some 
neighbor's son, and had your own little home 
and family.'* 
' ^ She almost snorted her disdain, "But no," 



A HAPPY WOMAN 241 

she declared. "If I liad stayed in Switzerland, 
we would liave been so poor tliat I could not 
have afforded to have children. I would not 
have wanted children. If I had had them, with 
the high cost of living, I could not have done 
justly by them, they would have had to join 
the armies of Germany or France. '^ 

"And now?'^ laughed my friend. 

"And now when I marry,'' she did not say if 
I marry, "I'll have something to do for my 
children; There will he no univanted child of 



My friend suddenly sobered. You will re- 
member she had been born with "I won't" on 
her lips because she had been an unwanted 
child. We both of us rode away thoughtfully. 
A long line of Indians w^ent filing up over the 
foothills, the men on horseback and many of 
the women on horseback, too; but one aged 
squaw brought up the rear of the procession 
afoot with a bundle on her back half the size 
of herself. We both reined in. My friend 
pointed with her whip to the old squaw, who 
was burden bearer, silhouetted on the crest of 
the hill, and to the girl homesteader's shanty, 
at the foot of the slope. 

"The old and the new," she said; "and the 



242 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

new is only at the foot of the Great Divide be- 
ginning to climb/' 

Suddenly, she whirled on me in one of her 
tempest moods. 

*^Look here/* she said. *^You know my life 
and its handicaps : I know yours : what do you 
think of this whole business of the change in 
woman's position? It is more than economic. 
It is really a change in the relation of the 
sexes.'' 

I answered with a question: '^Do you think 
the day mil ever come when women are not 
bartered chattels in marriage; when there is 
no unwanted child; when children will he con- 
ceived not in sin but love; and will be born not 
in travail but in joyf 

She leaned forward with her elbow on the 
saddle pommel, and her chin in the palm of 
her gauntlet. 

*^It's coming now," she answered pointing 
to the girl homesteader's shanty; but when we 
looked up for the aged Indian woman under the 
huge bundle, she had dropped over the crest 
of the hill. 

*^When the dawn bursts in perfect day, I 
want to come back and see the new type of hu- 
man race," she went on. ^'I want to see hu- 
man beings, not born tired from overwrought 



A HAPPY WOMAN 243 

mothers, and kids not born criminals from their 
parents^ blood, and youngsters not born scared 
and squally at life from the time they open 
their eyes because of the fright in the heart of 
the mother who carried them ! Of course, there 
are always confusion and waste and suffering 
in time of a great transition ! Do you think 
that you or I would have got out for ourselves 
if life hadn 't taken us by the scruff of the neck 
and pitched us out to sink or swim? Do you 
think my Aunt Maria would have gone out and 
rounded up a herd of steers in a blizzard T' 
(Her Aunt Maria was a notorious snob.) ''Of 
course, it hurts in spots; but that only takes 
the coward and the slug and the skulk and the 
shirk and the pretence out of our woman hearts ; 
so that only the fit survive; and I want more 
than ever to come back and see the new type 
of human race in a hundred years. '^ 

A lantern light twinkled in the girl home- 
steader's little lone shanty. 

"Our great grandmothers did that kind of 
thing,'' she nodded down, "two hundred years 
ago, when this continent Avas first pioneered 
and settled. It is we, who are the generation 
of half-way-ups, neither fish, flesh, nor good 
red herring! As we have grown in wealth and 
civilization, instead of working out a new free 
code of freedom for ourselves, we've imitated 



244 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

the social code and- standards of an effete old 
world, tliat is weary of its own life to extinc- 
tion and is discarding the customs we are tak- 
ing for the very salvation of our souls. 



J f 



^'The bed is shorter than that a man may 
stretch himself on," I quoted. 

*^And new wine bursts old bottles," she 
laughed. '^Let us go home on the lick." 

And we went over the crest of the foothills 
in a moonlight I can describe only as floods of 
silver. Just where we swerved into a ravine, ^ 
some settler had been trying out some new i 
drought-resisting variety of wheat, and where i; 
we skirted the wheat field, a coyote, earth color i 
and couchant and still as stone, leaped across 
our trail and loped off into the wheat. 

^' Chase him! Chase him!" she shouted. I 
*' Don't let him go! Let us run him down! 
Wolves hamstrung ten of our colts last winter. 
Eun him down, run him down!" and off across 
that settlers' farm we galloped, through wheat 
heavy headed and high as our saddles, fol- 
lowing only by the rise and fall of the wheat 
to the fore, where the skulking thing would run 
crouching and then take a flying leap in the 
moonlight. He was making for the rough 



A HAPPY WOMAN 245 

ground of a cotoau, where a noisy stream came 
tumbling down from the mountains. 

''Head him off/' she shouted. *'You keep 
the field. I'll take the stream l)ed," and in 
she plunged girth-deep; but the wolf was too 
quick for us. He gained the stream and 
crossed it at a bound. So did we ; but when he 
went up over the rocks, we reined in glowing 
wet and panting. 

^'What in the world do you think you would 
have done if you had caught it I" I asked. 

She leaned forward and unstrapped her sad- 
dle pocket. Inside was not a book, which I 
usually carried, but a revolver. (It reminded 
me of what I had once heard a town man say. 
^' Brute force! Bah!" he said. ^' There has 
been no ascendancy of brute force since the 
invention of the little gun. When women learn 
to take care of themselves as men take care of 
themselves, they will be free and strong as 
men, mothers of men, not mothers of cowards 
and imbeciles.'') 

She was aglow with health and exuberant 
life. She turned to me: ''Do you know you 
look absolutely utterly scrumptiously, bump- 
tiously well?" 

* ' I am ! ' ' Then it came back to me in a flash. 
**Iii returning and rest shall be your confi- 



246 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

dence'^: the moving picture films of dreams, 
the half naked figure flying before the wolves ; 
the vestured and hooded figure of death in the 
wheat fields, dead ripe below the upper Alpine 
meadows, where the disimprisoned waters 
laughed down from the upper peaks; and the 
whole world was flooded in moonlight that was 
silver, and the very hills echoed to the laugh- 
ter and gladness of the waters. She let hal- 
loo after halloo of sheer life out of her as we 
trotted down by moonlight that was silver to 
the ranch house; and I laughed. This time, 
the figure did not fly before the wolves; but 
the wolf fled before the figure, as all wolves 
flee before womanhood when you turn and face 
and fight and pursue. 

It is not part of this narrative to relate how 
I was begged to remain out in that free open 
life. The call of the open spaces needed no 
coaxing with me. Every year from that day 
to this, I have heeded the call once a year and 
gone out to the healing of forest and moun- 
tain and upper Alpine meadow; but a keener 
call had sounded in my soul, the call of Life, 
of zest, of service, of gladness in work, of a 
part in the great army marching to a new day ; 
and like my friend, I would like to come back 
in a hundred years and see the new type of 



A HAPPY WOMAN 247 

humanity, when suffering has eliminated the 
shirk and the skulk and the slug and the para- 
site and the sheep; when the dawn of a new 
century — woman's century — has grown to full 
and perfect day ! No more book lore for me ! 
No more culture snobbery! No more Chinese 
foot-bindings of caste upon my soul; but rather 
life and the thick of it, strife and stress, hard 
or easy, learning the cohesiveness and solidar- 
ity of the Sisterhood of Service ! 



248 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 



VIII 

IS THERE ANYTHING IN NEWSPAPER LIFE FOR 
WOMEN? 

I did not enter the newspaper world because 
I thought that I was divinely inspired to write. 
In fact, I knew that ninety-nine people out of a 
hundred, who were writing, would have done 
better by themselves and life over the bake- 
board, or behind the plow. That is, they would 
have done better work, saved more money, en- 
joyed greater security of tenure and extracted 
more of the flavor, called "happiness'' out of 
life. Nor was I attracted because I thought 
that writing was artistic, Bohemian, distin- 
guished, out of the ordinary. The real Bo- 
hemians that I knew were so constitutionally 
outside classification that they could not have 
been anything but Bohemian if they tried; and 
people who weren't Bohemian and tried to be, 
always struck me as an elephant that I had once 
seen at a circus trying to dance the two-step. It 
was highly amusing for a short time, but it 
must have been a difficult performance for the 
elephant. Nor had I ever the slightest attack 



A HxVPPY WOMAN 249 

of what the Greeks called ^Hlie itch for scrib- 
bling." It seemed to me then (and it seems to 
me now), that so nmch writing has been done 
regardless of whether the writer had anything 
new, true, entertaining, or essential to say, that 
the main point was to be sure you had some- 
thing to say before attempting to say it. This 
sounds like a truism; but if you ask the manu- 
script readers of any big publishing house they 
will tell you that of the thousands of manu- 
scripts that pour in every year, only about 10 
per cent, have anything to say ; and only about 
half that ten per cent, say it so people will 
read it. 

I had taken prizes in the university as an 
essayist, but it was by accident. I happened to 
be away when the prizes were offered and was 
away when they were distributed and really 
never knew about them till they were delivered 
at the door. If I had known they were offered, 
I should probably have embodied every rule 
under the sun on how to write, and killed my 
chances dead; but as I didn't know they were 
offered, I was keen on my subject, and the best 
art being the art that forgets art in its truth to 
life, results came my way. 

It was exactly so in my entrance to news- 
paper life. I didn't belong to the army of 
young girl graduates who, having fleshed their 



250 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

pens in ink and their vanity in a roll of essays 
tied in baby ribbon, go forth to conquer; or 
rather, go forth to singe the wings of myriad 
moths in the flame of a yellow candle. If tick- 
lings of vanity, of untried adolescent hopes, of 
printers' itch are apt to be mistaken for the 
call, for fitness for the job, what is the real 
test? Just one, the acid test, experience! The 
point is, be sure you have something to say, 
plain fact, or entertaining, or funny, or com- 
forting, just something to say. Don't try to 
say it if you haven't! If you have that plus 
the power to say it so it hits the public between 
the eyes, or in the stomach, or in the heart, or 
in the head, then, you have the call, that's all, 
though it may take you thirty years to find it, 
as it did 0. Henry. 

It was while stalled, or sidetracked, or what- 
ever you like to call it, that winter after coming 
back from the mountains. I had turned the 
corner and been pronounced well, but had been 
forbidden to go back to the game of life; and 
was reading everything I could lay my hands 
on, not to invite mental indigestion, but because 
if sickness, or death, or tragedy shakes down 
all that is flimsy in your life plans and creeds, 
leaving you only a foundation of fact, you have 



A HAPPY WOMAN 251 

a care, when you rebuild, to use only facts for 
the walls. 

I wanted facts for signposts along the road, 
whether I got them in literature, or news, or 
other lives. Before being stalled by life, I used 
to read only the headlines. Any news of crime, 
of moral delinquencies, of tragedies, anything 
vulgar or common, I skipped as Peter, the 
Apostle, skipped what he didn't like in the bag- 
ful of food let down by Heaven in the vision. 
You remember he called a lot of the bagful 
^'common.'' Well, I had felt toward a lot of 
life as Peter did. Though I unconsciously con- 
sidered myself a first-class little humble, small 
exemplar of the Christ-Creed, I had a hatred 
that was positively an obsession of what was 
common, or vulgar, or coarse, or ignorant. In 
a word, I was not only an intellectual cad, but a 
moral snob. Then Life hit me one on the head 
hard! When I came to, I knew what Christ 
meant when He said that ^'publicans and sin- 
ners'' should go into the Kingdom of Heaven 
before 'Hhese." I had belonged to the 
^' these." 

I had not cared for the Kingdom of Heaven 
as a harp-strunmiing proposition, but I had 
most terribly cared for It as a Thing to realize 
in everyday life, and as a hope when this Life 
merged in a Larger. Then illness taught me I 



252 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

was wrong, that the premises had been faulty, 
that the ''publicans and sinners" put it over 
where I and my kind failed. Now, I wanted to 
know the facts of Life, not just the facts that 
might suit my fancy, or taste, or caste; and I 
was reading voraciously for data that might be 
guidance. I was realizing that God must reveal 
Himself quite as much in modern life as in 
ancient days, in modern laws as in ancient saws, 
in facts quite as much as in ancient pacts. I 
pounced on everything and read with an appe- 
tite that was a sort of spiritual greed. 

It happened that the United States and an- 
other great country were engaged in interna- 
tional negotiations on the tariff. Both coun- 
tries were at the very apogee of the high tariff 
mania. Neither wanted, nor under any circum- 
stances, at that time, would have dared to offer 
a low tariff; but to catch a wing of voters in 
both countries, each was putting up a tremen- 
dous bluff, or buff, or whatever you like to call 
it, of tariff concessions. The dinners and sal- 
aries for commissioners and secretaries were 
costing each country about $100,000. Times 
were very hard. Money was scarce. The ab- 
surdity of this international game of blind- 
man's buff struck me. I wrote something off 
hot. If I had stopped to consider why I wrote 
it, or what I was going to do with it, I should 



A HAPPY WOMAN 253 

have burned it at once; but I was so obsessed 
with the idea, that before I had time to cool, I 
took it down to a stenographer to put in type- 
writing. Then, I posted it to the local daily 
that had been giving the fullest reports of the 
commission. 

It must have been the brevity that did it. 
The article was not an eighth of a column ; but 
it was bursting with the sense of absurdity that 
had obsessed me when I wrote it. The very 
next morning there came an envelope with the 
mark of the daily on the corner that set my 
heart doing acrobatics in my throat. Inside 
was a letter, handwritten, a tiny, cramped hand, 
plainly a gentleman of the old school, asking 
me to call. 

I was scared stiff. I had not meant to be a 
journalist. I had no desire to see my name in 
print. I hated, loathed and despised notoriety 
as the Devil is reputed to hate Holy Water; 
and here an opportunity, or chance, seemed to 
be coming my way, like the prizes for those 
college essays, which I did not know I was win- 
ning. I was so aghast that I went straight to 
the president of the university. He was a won- 
derful scholar, one of the old type teachers, 
who taught as they had learned under Sir Wil- 
lima Hamilton, after the Socratic method, it 
should have been called the sword method; for 



254* THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

he literally stabbed our lethargy into mental 
life. He was what I call a Protestant Jesuit. 
He had all the ^stheticism, all the narrowness, 
all the wonderful depth and height of Jesuit 
scholarship; but in the oncoming tide of mod- 
ern thought, he was like a dazed mariner on 
strange seas. 

He had studied under my grandfather, per- 
formed the marriage ceremony for my father 
and mother, and baptized most of our family. 
Instead of surprise, as I had expected, he burst 
into a little thin hard laugh attenuated from 
the stooped chest of sixty-five years* bending 
over books and blockheads. 

^^I am not surprised," he said. ^'In fact, 
dear child, it is just what I have been expect- 
ing. I have been waiting to see where you 
would break out. I was afraid to advise. I 
hesitate ever to advise. Each soul must work 
out its own destiny. Out, child! Understand 
distinctly, I said, out! We each must find our- 
selves ; realize the natures God has given us in 
the activity of life; and it is only when we 
realize our natures in activity that we are 
happy. It is from within , out always. That^s 
why we ministers of the soul must keep close 
to the inspirational teaching of the Christ, who 
gives dynamics to the soul.'' He paused, look- 
ing into space, tapping his glasses on a pile of 



A HAPPY WOMAN 255 

papers above his desk and wrapping bis cler- 
ical skirts about him as a rug for warmth 
round his emaciated frame. ^^ There is a new 
day coming," he added sadly. ^'What it vriW 
bring, no one knows ; but we can all see the 
edge of a dawn," he paused; ^'or a darkness. 
The day of creeds and heavy draught theology 
is past." His voice broke there ; that had been 
his life. The hand tapping the glasses on the 
pile of papers trembled. *'Our day," he added, 
*'has passed. AVe have fought the fight and 
kept the faith. It is you, the new generation 
of torch bearers, as mothers, teachers, journal- 
ists, free lances, who must carry the light and 
herald truth as the trumpet of God." He rose 
suddenly, and took both my hands in his. He 
was trembling. So was I. I had come for 
advice, and he had given me, a pagan as to 
beliefs, a rebel as to faith, a wanderer in the 
dark, like all the rest of my generation of 
womanhood, not advice, but consecration. 
*'God bless you," he said; '^and God bless 
you"; and he kissed my forehead. 

At the door, as I went down the wide steps 
of the university, he called down : ''I'll see the 
editor to-night, so you can fill the appointment 
exactly as he requests to-morrow morning." I 
turned. He was standing huddling in the 
autumn wind, gathering his coat skirts about 



256 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

him as a rug. ''God sends the winds called 
chance," he said, ''but we must hoist our sail." 
Those were the last words of my old teacher, 
famous for his scholarship on two continents. 
Soon after I had launched on the seas of jour- 
nalism, he launched on the wider seas of eter- 
nity. 

I had gone for advice and come away with a 
consecration. A consecration to what? The 
street lights looked misty as I tried to figure it 
out. I knew very well for what journalism for 
women at that date stood: "twenty don'ts for 
husbands"; how to cut a pattern; plum pud- 
dings; pink teas; gowns of newly rich. And 
yet, look back the last eighteen years, with all 
our veering and tacking, hasn't journalism 
inched forward? With all our blundering and 
fumbling, haven't we followed, clumsily, it may 
be, the flying phantom called Truth? Which 
modern reform could have been carried out 
without the preliminary scouting of the free 
lances, whom my old professor had designated 
as "torch bearers" and whom our enemies call 
"muck rakers"? And perhaps, "the twenty 
don'ts for husbands," the patterns, the plum 
puddings, the pink teas, the gowns, were to the 
beginners in this vocation what years of train- 
ing were in other professions, a testing of apti- 



A HAPPY WOMAN 257 

tude, the weeding of tlie unfit, the grilling in 
detail ; but the point is, the period of grilling 
has to be passed. How many of the aspirants 
with high school manuscripts under their arms 
think of that? 

When I reached the newspaper office next 
morning, I had to climb four flights of stairs, 
each one narrower and dirtier than the pre- 
ceding, past dingy windows without a shade, 
which, in all their history, I am quite sure, had 
Bever had the smoke and grime w^ashed off. 
There was first the advertising office, which 
wore an air of ^'You^re welcome! Come 
again!" Then came the job printing depart- 
ment, where the men behind the wickets looked, 
^'You're welcome if you mean business." The 
third floor was the bindery, where you could 
hear the presses thumping; and everybody 
scurried on the run through the hall. The 
fourth floor was the editorial, where the air 
w^as unmistakably, ^^Get out; and get out 
quick." Across the hall a little wicket had 
been placed. I have no doubt many an aspir- 
ant has regarded that wicket as the pearly 
,^ates barring paradise. 

The gates w^ere anything but pearly! They 
ivere grimier than the windows; and guarding 
'ihat gate sat an urchin, the color of printer's 



258 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

ink, tilted back in his chair with his feet on the 
table, chewing gum with a motion like a steam 
sand shovel that opens and shuts its mouth 
automatically for several tons at a chew. To 
the left was the reporters' room, blue with to- 
bacco smoke, where a dozen men seemed to be 
writing at a long slanting table as if pursued 
b}^ the incarnate. The telephone was ringing. 
Half a dozen telephones seemed to be ringing; 
and typewriters were clicking everywhere. 
Grimy-faced youths in ink- stained aprons 
went skating and sliding along the hall, tele- 
scoping one another as they ran, with long thin 
tissue paper sheets of telegraph stuff in one 
hand, long marked up galleys of proof in the 
other. I afterwards came to know this frater- 
nity as '' printers' devils." In modern offices 
they have been almost supplanted by the chute 
and tube system. The youth guarding the 
wicket gate didn't speak. He got his legs 
folded off the table and slammed a writing pad 
at me. On the pad I wrote my name, the name 
of the editor and my references. Then he went 
sliding down the dark hall with the printers' 
devils, while I stood at the wicket. 

Shades of studious thought ; and was this the 
modern moulder of public opinion? I recalled, 
with a grim desire to laugh, lectures on jour- 



A HAPPY WOMAN 259 

nalism about ^'meticulous accuracy," **tlie 
fine shade of meaning in each word/' ''the high 
moral purpose of the calling," those "torch- 
Dcarers." I hope that "meticulous accuracy" 
idea doesn't tickle you as it did me, then! 
Here, news came in like loads of wheat to a 
steam thresher — tons of it; and with a deal of 
rip and grime and grind, rushed out again as 
a kernel wdth lots of chaif intermixed! The 
marvel wasn't that there was chaff! The mar- 
vel was there was as much wheat; for every- 
thing was done at top heat, top pressure, top 
speed; and there was no stop. This paper is- 
sued morning editions, evening editions, mid- 
day editions, hourly ones, w^hen there was any 
sensation; and it controlled all the telegraph 
ews avenues of the state. 
But the boy's head had appeared at the far 
md of the smoke-blue corridor. "Yep; it's all 
ight," he yelled. "Come on in." I passed 
hrough the city editor's office, where report- 
rs were throwing sheaves and bunches of copy 
»n the desk and half a dozen copy readers, with 
;reen eye-shades over their faces, were read- 
Qg and lining out copy, reading like incarnate 
uries. No one looked up. Then came the tele- 
raph office. We hadn't yet been rigged up 
dth wires of our own. Messenger boys came 
lumping up back stairs with reams, it seemed 



260 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

that morning to me, miles of tissue paper tele- 
grams. Another hall; and I was in the office 
of the managing editor, the boy swinging the 
door shut behind me. 

The editor was sitting in his shirt sleeves 
behind a stack of newspapers that almost con- 
cealed him, with a pair of scissors in his hands 
the size of pruning shears, cutting and hacking 
at a huge Sunday edition of a New York paper. 
He was a fine old pink and white gentleman of 
the fine old leisurely school, one of the last of 
his leisurely type in newspaper work on this 
continent. He had been an admiral in his day, 
and now held his position by virtue of social 
connections with the directors of the news- 
paper. "\Yhen he didn't understand a subject, 
or wished to crush a bumptious opponent, he 
would quote Greek or Latin by the mile. He 
used to rise to read the classics an hour every 
morning; and yet, on the rising tide of rush 
and complexity and commercialism that has 
swept modern newspapers do^\m into new seas, 
he was like a baby playing with, chips on a 
maelstrom. He didn't look up when I went in; 
but he spoke. Here is what he said to this 
''consecrated torchbearer": ''I'm just hunt- 
ing for some editorials to steal! Gray matter 
not at a premium in this office to-day! Better 



A HAPPY WOMAN 261 

steal 'em than write a lot of punk!'* Then, he 
looked up. 

"Oh," he said, shaking hands over his desk 
and donning his coat, "I expected a much older 

3man. " 

I wanted to tell him that time would mend 
that defect; but I was too stage-struck, or 
amazed at the quickness with which the door 
had seemed to open before me and close be- 
hind me. It is so all through life. The door 
of opportunity to go forward to the new is also 
a door against retreat back to the old. To con- 
quer you have to burn your ships behind you, 
whether you will or not. He asked me if I 
would write certain obiter dicta of daily occur- 
rences. I hadn't the remotest idea in the world 
what that was ; but I said if he would tell me, 
I would try. Then, looking away as to a prom- 
ised land, he said he had to go to ''the Ses- 
sion." The Session was the very heaven of 
heavens and summit of Western and Middle 
Western editorial ambition. Our men went 
East for the winter and got in touch with all 
the brilliant correspondents of the world, and 
caught momentary glimpses of the under- 
ground working of wires in legislative halls. 
There is probably no position on a local daily 
that gives a keen-sighted man more power than 
ills report of national politics. I have known 



262 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

of men who would pay their o^^^l expenses and 
sacrifice half their salaries to do it. I have 
known of local politicians, who offered to pay 
us to let them do it. This editor had been 
Speaker of the local House in his day. I could 
see the longing in his eye for another whiff of 
the smoke of battle. Would I write, say, a col- 
umn of editorial a day during his absence ; and 
also, say two ''sticks,'' of obiter dicta, chit- 
chat about local topics, in a Western city then 
beginning to grow in leaps and bounds? Then, 
lie looked at me doubtfully. 

''But you are very young," he said. "Do 
you mind doing this on the quiet, doing it in 
your own home for a month or two, till we see 
how you pan out?" ^ 

So I began my newspaper life, going down 
every day at three, when the day staff had 
knocked off and before the night staff had 
come on, passing in my column for the morn- 
ing editorial and getting a hint from the tele- 
graph editor or news editor of a good topic for 
the next day. Because such fabulously un- 
truthful and misleading statements are issued 
about the earnings of writers, I want to set 
down the figures at w^hich I began. For the 
topics, which ran about half a column twice a 
week, I received $2 a column. For the editorial 



A HAPPY WOMAN 263 

column I received $14 a week at first ; later, $16 
a week. Within a year I had established con- 
nections with Pacific and Atlantic Coast 
dailies that increased my income $400 to $500 
a year. To-day, though both the population of 
the city and the circulation of that paper have 
quadrupled, and with them has quadrupled the 
cost of living, the space rate is $4, the editorial 
rate from $25 to $35 a week. It is now the 
capital city of a large and thriving territory. 
In New York, Baltimore, or Philadelphia, I do 
not think I am wrong in saying that the space 
rate would seldom exceed from $6 to $10; and 
the editorial rate from $35 to $50, and in these 
centers, there is practically the pick of the abil- 
ity of the world. Only the keenest kind of abil- 
ity, the ability that can make good, has the 
slightest chance ; and the winnowing process is 
without mercy and without cease. In any other 
vocation under the sun, with the same grilling, 
the same experience, the same training, the 
same ability, the same application, a man or 
woman would earn five times those figures. 
There is another point, in other vocations, you 
build a foundation for your future. Each 
day's work is a brick in the wall of future 
security against want. In newspaper work, 
whether you write well or ill, your ultimate 
fate is the waste paper basket. If you write 



264 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

badly, it goes into the individual newspaper 
waste basket before it is printed. If yon write 
well, it goes into the multitudinons public's 
waste basket after reading; and not ten read- 
ers out of 100,000 circulation will remember 
who w^rote well or ill. In a big public fight, 
which you will as inevitably get into as you get 
into your clothes if you are successful in news- 
paper work, you will get ten kicks for one hand 
clap; because pro bono publico slumbers majes- 
tic as the gods of Olympus, when pleased, but 
roars as loud as the big drum that is empty, 
when displeased. Your epidermis will pres- 
ently become as indifferent to praise as to 
blame ; and your most joyous sensation will be 
the satisfaction of just one more day's job well 
done. I set these facts down because in addi- 
tion to the titillations of vanity, the prompt- 
ings of the artistic to writing, a great many 
youngsters think that in a writer's career all 
you have to do is dip your pen in ink, and 
golden ducats ^vill trickle off the nib. These 
figures are, of course, only good for newspaper 
work; not for magazine work, not for litera- 
ture, where the earnings may be so much less 
as to be nothing, or so much more as to be 
astounding. 

At the end of four months, I came out of 
hiding and went openly on the staff. There 



A HAPPY WOMAN 265 

were in all departments, perhaps, a hundred 
men; and I was the only woman. Later, when 
t}7)e machines supplanted typestickers, the 
mechanical staff was reduced and the editorial 
staff increased. 

I sometimes read in great medical author- 
ities, that women cannot stand up physically 
against stressful nerve-driving life. In the 
four years I was on that staff, I did not lose 
one hour. There was only one man on the 
staff who had the same record. Did I not feel 
the drive, the concentration, the pressure? Of 
course, at times, it was terrific. A rush of 
double work has come, of elections or war, 
where we could not afford to double up work- 
ers, and we simply all worked regardless of 
sleep or rest. Were there no evil effects left? 
Not that I know! I went on that staff the 
frailest of my family; and I came off the 
toughest and the strongest. I'll admit that 
when I went on that staff, I thought deliber- 
ately and acted deliberately. When I came off, 
I had learned to think on the run and act on 
the jump, and never to go round a corner men- 
tally if I could cut across it. 

If the great medical authorities, who are men 
and therefore cannot know as much ahout a 
woman's anatomy as a woman does, will ac- 
cept a matter of fact as data in their masculine 



266 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

theories of things feminine; let me tell them 
this, — what breaks a woman, what peeves her, 
what harries her nerve-ends into rasping 
strings, what brings those grave mental and 
functional disorders about which physicians 
speak in whispers — is not fulness of days, drive 
of work, pressure of responsibility. It is one 
of two other things, either the emptiness of 
gray days that permit nature to turn in, acid 
on herself; or the constant presence of some- 
thing alien in what we love, or hate. 

As a woman, let me add another fact to this 
masculine data of things feminine, and let me 
add it as a woman's testimony about women, 
let me add it, too, as the testimony of every 
life insurance company in the world — the su- 
preme danger to a woman's life, the test of 
tests of her strength, physical and mental, the 
drain nervous and spiritual, is not in the or- 
dinary wage-earning vocation, in the hum-drum 
or drive or bump ety-bump -bruise and thump 
from out-of-the-home activities, else would life 
insurance statistics rule against her for these: 
the supreme danger to a woman's life, the 
greatest risk to her life, in an anguish, which 
no soldier has ever known on the field of battle, 
when the doors of life and death swing open 
and she hovers inanimate between these two, 
is in the act of giving birth to a new life; and 



A HAPPY WO:\IAN 267 

if one or two of tliese great theorists had had 
a baby or two of their own, not in obstetrics by 
proxy, but in their own flesh, they would ap- 
preciate this testimony. The history of every 
race of every epoch under the sun testifies to 
this fact in the veneration of motherhood next 
to God. To tell a woman that she can stand 
the strain of motherhood, but that if she dares 
to essay the lesser strain of some extraneous 
vocation, she will be annually, diurnally and 
sempiternally damned, it is, well, it is as the 
grimy little newsies on our grimy stairs used 
to say — it is to laugh! 

There is another point on which I should like 
to pay my compliments to the neurotic theor- 
ists. They tell us that if a woman ventures 
out-of-the-home vocations, she will enter into 
competition with men, so forfeit their chivalry 
and arouse sex jealousy, or sex antagonism. I 
worked for four years on this staff, the only 
woman among a hundred men; and I worked 
for six years on other staffs in New York and 
London, where competition was so keen as to 
be almost vicious ; and I never experienced one 
single episode lacking chivalry, nor encoun- 
tered what could be remotely called sex jeal- 
ousy, sex antagonism. Have I never then en- 
countered jealousy? Hundreds of times, of 



268 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

course; who has not? But never as of a man 
toward me because I was a w^oman, but rather 
because I had permitted a work-relationship to 
slip into a personal relationship. This does 
not mean proposals; and it had nothing to do 
with sex. For instance, I remember a scrub 
blackguard reporter, who was tolerated on the 
staff for a few months only out of sympathy 
for his little invalid mfe. He had a trick of 
writing us all heartrending appeals for money 
to buy medicine for his wife. One week, one 
of us would hand out $5 ; another week, another 
of us, till we learned that his wife had left him 
and was earning her living, while the borrowed 
money was being spent on drunks. The next 
time he sent a heart-rending appeal, he was 
asked to come and get the money. I withdrew. 
Something bluer than tobacco smoke filled that 
office for ten minutes. When I came down next 
morning, the legs of one table and back of a 
chair had gone down in an unrelated smash. 
Needless to say, the victim of the table legs 
hated us not only for the last five he didn't get, 
but for all the fives he had got. I have some- 
times traced lies not worth hearing to that ab- 
normal specimen, who finally wound up in the 
penitentiary. I could give other cases similar 
to this of antagonism ; but it was not sex antag- 
onism. It was friction in work. My life has 



A HAPPY WOAFAN 269 

brought me in contact with ten men for one 
woman, intimately and constantly ; and I have 
never encountered this thing called sex antag- 
onism. That it does exist hideously in homes, 
I am w^ell aware; that it springs up wherever 
w^oman or man uses sex as an appeal, I know; 
but if it exists in the w^orld of work as a jeal- 
ousy or result of comx^etition, I have not in 
tw^enty years encountered it. I am rather 
proud of both women and men that I can set 
this fact down. 

Or take another case, that of an assistant 
editor of magnificent physique, of inordinate 
sleepless ambition to get on; and the kindest 
heart I have ever known; but he had no educa- 
tion, no daring, and little ability, just a dogged, 
tense, persistent, day-and-night slavery to 
w^ork; no bubbles, no joy, no lift on the wrings 
of hope, no song over work. He took himself 
horribly seriously, and had about a dozen 
nerves wdiere other men had one. If you will 
please look at those ingredients very carefully, 
you will see they have a strong resemblance to 
the delectable morsels in the witches' caldron 
of Macbeth. Only one brew can come out of 
them — jealousy. He would do the kindest 
things for those under him, and the meanest 
things to those showing the slightest possibility 
of going up past him. He seemed to have the 



270 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

foolish, almost effeminate, idea of social climb- 
ers in his big manly frame, that he could ad- 
vance himself by as much as he pushed others 
do^\m. I never had ructions with that man; 
but if I had not studied him out and side- 
stepped him, he would have done both me and 
my work serious damage; but his attitude to 
me was harmless compared to his attitude to 
many men workers. After the old admiral left, 
a man came to us as manager, who was almost 
the duplicate of this assistant editor, except 
that he had great natural ability, a geniality 
that soured at nothing, and not an atom of jeal- 
ousy in his make-up. How the assistant man- 
aged it with the directors I don't know; but he 
had the manager thrown out at a time when the 
big fellow owned nothing but a wife and twins. 
And such ambition-meanness accomplished 
nothing for its unhappy possessor. When war 
and elections came on simultaneously, that man 
literally died at his desk. Ten years later, the 
other man, big of soul as he was of body, came 
back as owner of the paper. The jealousy in 
this case can hardly be set down to that sex 
antagonism which the theorists so greatly 
fear. In fact, the only occasions when I have 
seen such sex jealousy aroused have been when 
a woman tried to use sex appeal as a factor in 
her work. When the woman worker has done 



i 



A HAPPY WOMAN 271 

that, she has used the lowest type of vanity in 
her own nature and has appealed to the lowest 
type of attraction in the man's nature; and 
where these two clash in antagonism, there 
does not seem to be any stop to the abyss, 
where they may fall. I emphasize these things 
because physical disability and sex antagonism 
are receiving such undue emphasis from the 
theorists; and they are two factors that in 
twenty years' work outside the home I have 
not even needed to ignore, I have simply been 
unconscious of them. 

Perhaps, in this connection it would be in- 
teresting to set down that the reason I ulti- 
mately left that first staff was because I re- 
fused to permit my earnings to undercut a man 
on the staff. As the West began filling up with 
population, our paper jumped to almost a met- 
ropolitan circulation ; and there had been taken 
in as assistant editorial writer a fine old politi- 
}ian, known all through the West for his bril- 
iant campaign work. I am ashamed to say he 
vas paid by us for this work only $35 a week. 
When he had been with us about a year, there 
jame one of those crazy mining booms that 
)eriodically bedeviled the whole community 
rom '93 to 1900. Settlers pitched their home- 
tead rights to the winds and trekked for the 



272 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

new gold fields. Farmers practically aban- 
doned, or sold at such a low figure that it 
amounted to abandonment, fine farms that 
were just beginning to yield good incomes. We 
met editorially one day to see what we could do 
to stem the tide, perhaps I should say, to allay 
the gold fever. I suggested the thing to do was 
to play up prominently the fact that, in any one 
state from Kansas to Minnesota, a single 
year's grain crop amounted to more than all 
the precious metals that ever came out of a 
gold camp. (You can figure this up for your- 
self. You will find it true.) The chief editor 
didn't think the facts were available. I said I 
thought I had them at home. I was asked to 
hand them to the other editorial writer, who 
happened to live in the same apartment house 
as ourselves. Walking home, he turned to me. 
''Look here," he said. "You've got me in a 
devil of a hobble ! I don't think those facts are 
available. As you suggested this article, will 
you do it yourself; and I'll keep to my last, 
and do a political one ? " I did it hurriedly that 
night, quite unconscious of results. The re- 
sults were congratulations by wire from every 
board of trade and grain exchange in the coun- 
try. This didn't elate us. We were busy on 
something else; but one morning I was called 
into the chief's office. 



A HAPPY WO:\IAN 273 

*' What's to hiiider you giviiiL^ us twice your 
usual quota of editorial T' be asked. 

** Nothing," I answered, ''if I am taken off 
the day telegraph." 

''If you could do that," he continued, 'Sve 
could let So-and-So go" — naming the political 
writer. 

''And my salary would be?" 
"The same, of course. You are only tw^enty- 
three, and you are getting half a man's pay 
^." 

Then I can't do it," I said; and two wrecks 

llater I resigned. There were no w^ords, no ar- 

^ments. It simply struck me as a sweatshop 

proposition, which every w^oman must meet, 

ivbo goes out into the world; and how she 

neets it determines whether she is to be a fac- 

;or, or a factotum in the economic world. If 

ihe undervalues her own earning power, she 

Qust not be surprised if the w^orld undervalues 

t, too. If her earning powers are wdiat she 

hinks they are, she w^ill command her price. 

f they are not, let her take her lesson and in- 

rease her earning powers and never w^hine. 

Yhen she enters the man's w^orld, she must ask 

either odds, nor favors as an earner. I had 

le satisfaction a few years later to have this 

lan tell me that he had made a mistake in let- 

ng me go, that he never dreamed I could take 



274 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

him up. He had thought from the burdens we 
were all carrying in the city at that time that I 
could not afford to resign. 

I couldn't; but I could afford less to stay. In 
my heart, I know this man would never have 
made this proposition to me if he had known 
that I was financially able to refuse it. The 
episode was a lesson to me for the rest of my 
life. Napoleon used to say — Keep the way be- 
hind secure and the victory ahead will take 
care of itself! I made up my mind always to 
have some sit-fast acres of my own, a roof over 
my head free of debt, a fortress, whither I 
could retire in security, from which the enemy, 
Economic Want, could never dislodge me ; and 
any success I have achieved in life I attribute 
to a determined adherence to that policy. It 
seems to me the lesson is worth pondering by 
every wage-earning woman. If women go it 
blind in the economic world, as fully half the 
total army of seven millions do, their blind i 
procedure will undoubtedly lead to the ditch. 

Meantime, I left that staff with less than $10 
over my railroad fare to the East. The con- 
nections formed from the West now opened 
doors for me; so that the details of metropol- 
itan life need not be given, except that the 
fearful stress on every hand in the big cities 
strengthened that decision in my heart that 



A HAPPY WOMAN 275 

every wage-earning woman, who does not want 
to see her life ditched, must stop going it blind 
and from the very first plan her home, her for- 
tress, her anchorage against Future Want. 

I do not think my fellow worker ever knew 
why I left. I never told him; but I set down 
the incident to show that the so-called sex-an- 
tagonism is largely the disordered fancy of 
theorists jaundiced from too much umbilical 
introspection. As long as we keep in action, up 
and doing, Life has a wonderful way of keep- 
ing our bodies and souls wholesome and in 
whack ; but if you sit down looking in on your- 
self, poking and prodding and hunting disor- 
ders, you will find them if you don't create 
them. 

Nor was my action exceptional. Even as I 
write these words, a woman's trades union in 
one of the most poorly paid industries in the 
United States is contributing a large sum to 
the married men on strike in the same trade, 
though the winning of the strike will lessen 
chances of increased wages for the women. 

To revert to newspaper life in a frontier city, 
there were a lot of advantages in beginning 
newspaper work in a small place instead of a 
large one. In large centers, work is so special- 
ized that a writer of 'twenty don'ts for hus- 
bands," ''recipes" and ''pink teas" might con- 



276 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

tinue doing these things all her life and never 
attain a general knowledge or general training 
to turn her hand to anything else. I have 
known special writers in big cities who in ten 
years never met another soul on the staff but 
the managing editor. In a small center, if the 
beginner has aptitude, there will be rush times 
when all hands ^^dll turn in on everything; and 
a woman will soon find whether she fits in or 
is a makeshift. This fact should be empha- 
sized ; for in the army of young girl graduates 
yearly looking to journalism as a career far- 
off fields look green. Longing eyes turn to the 
maelstrom of the big city, forgetful that prep- 
aration and experience are as necessary to win 
success in this vocation, as years of struggling 
and preparation are to win a place in the Paris 
Salon, or Grand Opera. 

I began as outside space writer of editorials. 
In a few months, I was doing my work in the 
office, cooped off in a little box-like compart- 
ment along with the half-tone plates and lead 
cuts of heroes and criminals. Sometimes, I 
blush to acknowledge, when the hero did things 
too unexpectedly for us to prepare a cut of him, 
pictures of a criminal were run in his place; 
and none of us knew the difference until after- 
wards. This was not the designed deception 
of ''the yellow"; but if a hero persists in 



A HArrV WOMAX 277 

(iyiri^ at the very last moment when a paper is 
going to press on the very day when a war and 
an election and a train wreck are straining 
nerves to the breaking point, you must not 
blame the printers' devil Johnny too severely, 
when he comes rushing in for the picture plates, 
if he picks out Holmes, the wife-murderer, for 
Holmes, the scientist. Because we were one of 
the very last of big Middle Western papers to 
change typesetting for the type machine, we 
prided ourselves on freedom from typograph- 
ical errors. In fact, there were times when 
we were almost ready to offer a $5 gold piece 
to anyone who could find a typographical error 
in our morning edition. All right ! Behold the 
pride that goes before a fall! We took one 
type machine on as an experiment. It set solid 
lines. If there w^ere an error of one letter in 
a line, the whole line had to be reset. At the 
last minute one afternoon, the news was tele- 
phoned in that a certain hyphenated generous 
spender would donate a certain generous figure 
to put up a monument for two heroes, 'Svho 
lost their lives in the Indian War.'' The 
proofs were dashed in — Generous Spender's 
name was mis-spelled — that would never do! 
In the absence of the head proof reader, who 
was in the composing room running his eye 
over the galleys of t>^e, I put the hyphen and 



278 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

the letter in Generous-Spender's name; but 
trusting to the city editor and proof man being 
out in the composing room, I did not go out to 
see the correction. Here is what that type 
machine did when the corrected line came out 
in the paper: ^^Mr. Hyphenated Generous- 
Spender will donate spzg89ryxt, etc., etc., to 
the heroes, who lost their livers in the Indian 
War.'' 

We had an elaborate gentleman, who did a 
column on society called ''Social Salad;" and 
wrote himself into society by always tacking 
his own name conspicuously on the end of 
''those present"; and we had a little man 
picked up from somewhere, who arranged, 
stole, or made up, the weekly page on recipes 
and plum puddings. Whatever became of the 
people who ate the plum pudding I don't 
know. I gradually slipped into the habit of 
coming down at 9.30 in the morning and writ- 
ing my editorial till 11; then helping to edit 
the telegraph in the rush from 11 to 2.30; no 
time for lunch; then, if there were more rush, 
all hands would turn in and read the proofs till 
3 or 3.30. The pace was a wild scramble from 
the time of entering the office. The hours were 
short; but it was the kind of work you took 
home in your thoughts and had in mind at your 



A HAPPY WOMAN 279 

meals and slept with over night; for the edi- 
torial writers were supposed to look up their 
data tlie night before. 

Was it worth while, I mean worth while for 
the average woman! Put it wider still, was it 
worth while for the average man? Your suc- 
cessful banker, railroad man, engineer, doctor, 
w^holesaler, also takes home his business in his 
thoughts at night, and sleeps with it, and eats 
with it, though he may swear he doesn't; but 
at forty-five, your business man, if he is suc- 
cessful, has a security, a fastness against want, 
a certainty of tenure. His value is in propor- 
tion to his experience. Is that true of the 
average successful newspaper worker, espe- 
cially the woman worker? 

We were a corporation paper, that is, we 
were owned by a corporation rated as one of 
the ten richest in America. By that, do not 
think that we came down hat in hand every day 
and licked the hand that fed us, or beguiled an 
innocent public into mistakes for the sake of 
that corporation. We didn't. Except during 
election time, we did not know we were owned 
by a corporation. During elections, we were 
supposed to shout for ^'the grand old party." 
If the man, who stood for ''the grand old 
party" chanced to be malodorous to the public. 



280 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

tlien we were allowed to write on economics in 
China and Peru. The corporation owned that 
jDaper for the purpose of pushing the country 
and defending itself from blackmail legislation. 
There were times when we attacked the cor- 
poration, itself, when its policy seemed a dis- 
crimination against our territory. Because we 
were owned by a rich corporation, we did what 
not another paper west of Chicago could do at 
that time, we refused to boom or advertise the 
fake mining schemes that successively broke 
out from Nevada and Colorado to the Yukon. 
I am setting these facts down because corpora- 
tions have been so roundly ''cussed'' for the 
past ten years, it is well to give even the devil 
his dues. A newspaper exists solely by virtue 
of the confidence inspired in the public. The 
minute it forfeits that, its value to the corpora- 
tion is lost. The most deeply we ever sinned 
against the public was in connection with a man 
put in as governor by "the grand old party." 
He used to come into our office and write inter- 
views with himself lauding a well-known gold 
mine to the skies. It was a mine then paying 
1,000 per cent, dividends ; and as he always put 
his opinions in ''quotes" as his own, we did not 
feel our blood guilt till we saw those inter- 
views reproduced in the leading commercial 
journals of London and New York, as coming 



A HAPPY WOMAN 281 

from our representative governor. Then we 
began to make inquiries. Engineers let lis into 
the suspicion that the mine with 10-cent shares, 
then selling at $1.85, might be a pocket, that 
would peter out any clay. Two of us went in to 
confer with the chief who had succeeded the 
old admiral. You will remember his charac- 
teristics of ambition and no ability. He didn't 
snub us. He squelched and squashed us. What 
were we, lay critics, greenhorns, outside dun- 
der heads, to put our ofiSce opinions up against 
experts? Did we expect the paper to offend 
the party because Governor So-and-So was 
blowing off some innocent self -advertising? 
Anyway, the governor had gone to Xew York. 
The thing was over. We couldn't prove the 
vein would fail. We'd have a libel suit on our 
hands if we touched the thing; and so on and 
so on. But alas! The damage was done! A 
huge international corporation had been formed 
in New York and London to take over that 
group of mines and railroads. Shares jumped 
to $2.85. If I remember correctly, the figure 
paid was twenty million dollars, good cash, not 
water. That mine never paid a dividend. In 
two years the vein petered out; and a capital- 
ist of stainless reputation died of a broken 
heart because his name on the directorate had 



S82 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

misled investors to ruin. Was it corporation, 
or party, that caused our sin? 

As far as I can recall there was only one 
occasion when even an attempt at intimidation 
was made. It was two years after I had left 
that staff. That was the era when corpora- 
tions grew rich bu}dng up for a song blanket 
charters with land grants attached for the con- 
struction of impossible railroads over impos- 
sible routes. In a series of special articles for 
London and New York dailies, touching on the 
opening of the West, which at this time was 
just beginning to break on us like a dawn, I 
had mentioned this abuse of blanket railroad 
charters; the particular abuse was a grant of 
12,000 acres to the mile for a railroad across a 
swamp, the land not to be picked from the 
swamp area but from the choicest lands of the 
country. One night about ten o 'clock, the chief 
lobbyist of this corporation, who had been tele- 
graph editor on our old staff, called at my 
home. 

''Say,'' he said, after friendly preliminaries 
and reminiscences, ''have you done this series 
of Western development stuff, that's been tele- 
graphed everywhere?" 

"Certainly, that's no secret." 

"Well, it's a curious way to treat old friends. 
It will cost us $100,000 to counteract " men- 



A HAPPY WOMAN 283 

tioning a special on a particularly rotten pro- 
ject for obtaining land grants. 

^^I'm sorry old friends are bit by it,'^ I an- 
swered. '*I was not thinking of your people, 
when I wrote it." 

*^It might prove a boomerang," he said. 

I didn 't take in what that meant. 

*'We have agents every^vhere. Don^t you 
know we could damn you with outside editors, 
if our string of newspapers began to attack 
your work as inaccurate?" 
"^ ''Is that a threat?" 

*'No, it's a piece of advice from an old 
friend. You would not be the first we have 
turned down." 

It is a mistake ever to fly up in a dispute 
over matters of fact. Something within me felt 
like a fuse burning near dynamite. 

"I wish you hadn't said that," I answered; 
"for I have nothing to lose; and on your own 
testimony, you have a good deal." 

He left awkwardly, and I went upstairs ; and 
what I wrote about blanket charters left no 
manner of doubt as to what was meant. This, 
I sent out in duplicate, one to New York, one 
to London. 

Three weeks later, I met my old friend on 
the street. He stopped me. "Say," he said, 
"I'm sorry about the other night. I told them 



284 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

if they had any more dirty messages to deliver, 
they could do it themselves." 

Whether he had been sent to tell me ''to be 
good" and blundered into the threat, or had 
been sent to make the threat and was now blun- 
dering out of it, I don't know. I mention it as 
an instance of the fact that the craftiest cor- 
porations do not work by whip and bludgeon, 
they work by indirection, that is so indirect it 
is impossible of proof. 

One fact impressed me daily in the life, it 
was the tremendous power women could wield 
and didn't on newspapers. I don't mean as 
writers. I mean as readers. The average 
newspaper is not edited for women. It is 
edited for men. If you doubt this, read the 
piffle page served up as ''Woman's." Eead 
the sneers at new movements for women. Eead 
the innuendo unstated to set suspicion by the 
ears in social scandals that it is "the woman 
in the case. " Now, with the cost of print paper 
at its present figure, no newspaper could exist 
a week without the revenue from advertising. 
Look over the advertisements ! For whom al- 
most exclusively are they written ? Take a big 
Sunday issue ! Three-fourths always of the ad- 
vertising for women only, the departmental 
stores, the soaps, the cleaners, the stains, 



A HAPPY WOMAN 285 

clothes and food and amusement, all with a sole 
appeal to women. Purely business advertise- 
ments, stocks, bonds, real estate, motors, sel- 
dom fill more than a fourth of the advertising 
space. Yet, editorially, women's interests are 
subordinated in the newspapers. It may be 
said that news is human, an appeal to both men 
and women; and that is true. What is man's 
interest is woman's interest; and what is wom- 
an's interest is man's; but that does not ex- 
plain away the covert sneer at many woman - 
movements; the salacious, the unclean and the 
lewd, exploited as news solely for the circula- 
tion to be gained in the underworld ; and these 
very papers are the ones whose revenues come 
from the woman readers of the advertisements. 
I venture to say that, if women realized their 
power in this matter, they could dictate the edi- 
torial policy of every paper in the country for 
the highest good of the race. This is but a 
hint of what the coming solidarity of woman- 
hood may work out, when highest and lowest, 
and weakest and strongest, march together. 

But all this reflects only one side of news- 
paper work. Corporation organ as we were, 
we fought the usual battles for children, for 
purer civics, for the punishment of crime, for 
the help of the needy. All the legislation for 
children's aid, delinquency courts and guard- 



286 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

ianship for cliildren of improper parents, 
sprang from two little girls coming to the oiBfice 
one night at ten to beg money to buy drink for 
their mother. The men of the staff told them 
to come back next morning. I went with them 
to their home, if a one-ply board shanty with- 
out a floor in the section of the city kno^m as 
^'helPs kitchen'' could be called *'a home." 
The conditions were unprintable. It was a den 
of a gang of nine with one woman; and there 
were eight children. The entire gang lived on 
the children's begging. 

"When I went back to the office, we all ham- 
mered it out; and most of us were a very pagan 
lot, indeed. The empty silly mid-summer sea- 
son was on, when the wires yearly grind out the 
same old fakes of ^ ' the man who swallowed the 
small alligator, " ' ' the eagle that swooped down 
on the farmer's sleeping baby," *Hhe baby 
found with a snake in its lap." Just as regu- 
larly as news would flag, these perennial old 
lies would come over the wires. We all talked 
it over in the reporters' room. Why not "play 
up the kids" and "kill the snakes" and "the 
eagles" and "the alligators"? We did, not in 
solid chunks and sermons, but in editorial notes 
and human stories and little paragraphs used 
as fill-ins for articles, that ran short of a col- 
umn. We didn't make it a big headline cam- 



A HAPPY WOMAN 287 

paign. We just kept peppering hot shot into 
the public's smug complacency, a story to-day, 
a police paragraph to-morrow, a ten-line edi- 
torial on what the public was paying for crime 
and how much cheaper it would be ''to save the 
kids.'^ The mayor called a public meeting. 
That winter the local legislature passed its first 
delinquency court and children's aid acts; and 
the year before I left that city, as secretary of 
something or other, I signed a guardian's per- 
mission for the marriage to a prosperous 
farmer of one of those little girls found in 
''hell's kitchen." 

In all big cities, where there is an influx of 
workers, men and women, there is an hour on 
a newspaper, when you can pretty nearly read 
tragedy in hungry eyes. It is the hour before 
the main edition comes off, about two in the 
afternoon, and between twelve and one at mid- 
night. Then, the out-of-work nondescripts 
crowd in to read "the want ads.," before the 
paper goes out to the general public. In our 
go-as-you-please office, they used to wander up- 
stairs to read "the want ads." in the proofs. 
"When they w^ere men, some of the staff would 
turn them over to the city charity departments, 
or the labor unions; but to me, there never 
seemed a proper clearing house for the women, 



288 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

a place of cooperation and quick action to stand 
between tlie girl and the park bench. A man 
can sleep on a park bench all night and come 
off with but slight damage to self-respect. A 
woman can't. When she reaches the park 
bench stage, she is on an edge from which she 
may drop into a hole in the river, or the abyss. 
Send a girl, who is hungry and out of work, to 
a charity organization, where she has to wait 
for the secretary to see the treasurer, and the 
treasurer to see the president, and before red 
tape has run its endless round, something may 
happen. I have tried it again and again ^dth 
girls, who came to us, and have come away 
from charity with a lump in my throat and a 
fury of contempt in my soul. There are thou- 
sands, there are tens of thousands of unenlisted 
women, able to help, who want to help but will 
not give either their funds or their presence 
to charity organizations, where 90 per cent, of 
the funds go to job-holders' salaries, and 10 
per cent, to the needy. There are thousands, 
there are tens of thousands of self-respecting 
women, who deserve help and will not ask for 
it, and can be helped only through the coopera- 
tion of the strong with the weak. Lady Bounti- 
ful, feeding out charity at the end of a forty- 
foot pole to sniveling nakedness and want, is 



A HAPPY WOMAN 289 

a figure past forever in the World of Work 
except as a caricature of the Christ creed. 

What is wanted is a Sisterhood of Service, 
to sing together, to pkiy together, to cooperate, 
to help, to march slioulder to shoulder to what- 
ever this enforced economic revolution in wom- 
an's world may lead. Where it will lead, 
neither you nor I know; but we are on the 
march. Let us march together ! It is in the 
vacation unions, trade unions, consumers^ 
unions under the civic federations now spring- 
ing up in every city in the United States that 
the great hope lies ; but at that time there was 
literally not such a cooperative union of women 
in the United States. 

Here are two examples of the need: One 
night, I forget what it was that had kept us all 
on the rasp till six o'clock, train wreck, mur- 
der, or something, I was sitting in my cubby- 
hole of an office among the line cuts of the 
famous and the infamous, when I heard the 
stairs creaking to the measured slow tread of 
a step that I did not recognize. The grimy 
urchin, who kept guard at the wicket, had gone. 
The reporters had come in for their night as- 
signments and dispersed. The presses were 
thump-thumping below, but with not half so 
tired a pound as our own heads and hearts. I 



290 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

had sat down to write my editorial for the next 
day; so that I could rest at home instead of 
working that night. With thoughts about as 
fluid as black strap syrup in winter I was think- 
ing up some far-away subject, when a vital live 
subject swooped down without my recognizing 
it. The slow dead step stopped opposite my 
cubby-hole; and a woman's voice asked ''Are 

you '' calling me by my Christian name. I 

thought it some social self-advertiser, who had 
failed to boom her wares over the telephone 
wire ; and, without turning, asked what I could 
do for her. She came in and leaned heavily 
against the top of the high-roller desk. 

''I'm working as a hired girl and waitress 

in ," naming one of the lowest dives in 

^'hell's kitchen," just opposite the union sta- 
tion, where the immigrant trains came in and 
out. I looked up to see a woman of twenty-five 
or six, hollow-eyed with emaciation and worry, 
but well-dressed and unmistakably well born. 

"I've been there three months " I rose, 

offering her my chair, but she waved my offer 
aside. "I came on the colonist excursions with 
my mother from the East expecting to teach; 
but my certificates were not good for your 
schools. I placed my mother in the old ladies' 
home ; and this was the only work I could get. ' ' 
She told me her duties were to rise at four in 



A HAPPY WOMAN 291 

the morning, when the first immigrant trains 
passed, and sell fruit to travelers that rushed 
from the cars to the little fruit shop that acted 
as a blind for the gambling joint in the rear. 
The place was kept by an Assyrian of the low- 
est record. After the first trains passed, she 
scrubbed the whole establishment; then she 
cooked the breakfast for a family of five, who 
I slept in one room above. Then, she was sup- 
posed to stand on her feet behind the fruit 
[counter till 12 at night when the last train 
j passed. For these services, she received $4 a 
jw^eek. How she had escaped bodily harm I do 
I not know, probably because she was needed to 
keep a respectable front to the joint. The 
place, where she w^orked, was unsafe for a man 
after dark. I looked over her certificates 
enough to see they were authentic, though I 
missed her name. 

^'How did you happen to come to me?" I 
asked. 

I knew a good many gamblers of a respect- 
able sort in that wild hurly-burly era ; but I 
didn't think that any of them who frequented 
that low joint would know me. It seemed a 
passenger on the Pullman that day had run 
across to buy fruit and asked how such a re- 
spectable woman happened to be in such a 



292 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

place. She had told him in gasps. He had 
rushed out mumbling he was sorry he was 
going right through ; then just as he jumped on 
the train, he turned back and called over his 

shoulder, "See , " naming me by my first 

name again, ''she'll see a girl in trouble 
through hell if she has to go down for her." 
She gave a minute description of the man. I 
have not the remotest idea who he was. I have 
never met a man of his description. 

Sometimes, when body and spirit fag and we 
lose contact with, or consciousness of, the 
stream of vital power that flows from the God 
of the Unseen, it takes a lifting kick, or a slap 
on the back, or a lash of need to jolt us back 
into contact with the hidden energy; but some- 
times, by a quip or quirk of Fate, we get a rose 
unexpectedly tossed in the face, and it brings 
back the fragrance of the morning garden to 
our souls. This unexpected compliment tossed 
in my face by a total stranger at a moment 
when I had been tired enough to heave brick- 
bats at angels brought a feeling of sudden lift 
to the let-down energies that you can explain in 
only one way, a tapping of unseen reservoirs. 

I thought a minute. We had fought for and 
elected the Ph.D. at the head of educational 
affairs, in the local government. I went into 
another room and called him up by telephone 



A HAPPY WOMAN 293 

at his house. I askod if he were ready to do 
as he had been done by. He laughingly an- 
swered, ' ' Yos. " " Then, I am sending a woman 
to you by the next car passing your house, and 
I want you to play down," I answered. 

I sent her off with two street-car tickets and 
a line on a reporter's pad. Then I forgot all 
about her and wrote an editorial on **The Evil 
Effects of French Realism on Our American 
Idealism." 

I hope the lesser gods, what the Indians call 
^^the delight makers," didn't laugh! It is we 
Avho are the clowms; not the delight-makers 
among the gods. Here was Realism, that was 
Idealism, right under my hand; and I hadn't 
sense to recognize it. That is typical of much 
of woman in newspaperdom! We are working 
the old dead sawdust and punk, while life is 
quivering to come up under our hands. 

Next day at noon, in the rush, of course, 
when A.D.T. messenger boys w^^re piling in 
telegraph stuff and printers ' devils were shout- 
ing for copy, a head poked into my cubby-hole 
door. ^'I've got a job," called a face, not the 
emaciated face of yesterday, but a face with 
the morning hope of the rose in its glow, ''I've 
got a school at $50 a month; and I'm leaving 
by the noon train." ''Good luck," I called; 
and I don't know her name to this day. 



294 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

''Good,'' says your protected woman behind 
the security of four home walls, a husband, 
father, and perhaps two or three brothers. 
"That's always the way. If a woman trusts in 
God and takes care of herself, nothing evil can 
happen to innocence ; and there 's really no ex- 
cuse, etc., etc.," ring down the curtain; and let 
us go home happy. But wait. What if this 
isn't the end of the play; only the end of one 
scene? 

Scene the Second, the same office six weeks 
later, time, ten at night, person, a girl plodding 
up the grimy stairs and looking longingly 
over the proofs of ''the want ads." hanging on 
a long streamer from a hook on the city edi- 
tor's desk. After she had been doing that for 
two weeks, some of the men suggested that she 
come in the morning and see me. I looked up 
one morning to find her standing perfectly 
stonily beside the desk, well dressed and well, 
yes, well born ; but there were certain lines on 
the face. It was like a face cornered ready to 
spit at Fate. Young, not over twenty, she, too, 
had come in on one of the cheap excursions. 
She had been a governess, speaking both 
French and German, and her references were 
excellent. 

Now the ghastly part of this human bone- 
yard is, there is no excuse for a human scrap 



A HAPPY WOMAN 295 

heap. It isn't necessary. This girl needed 
help, and there were multitudes of hands ready 
to help her if only there had been a clearing- 
house to bring them together in time. Please 
emphasize the in-time ! You can gather up bits 
of smashed china; but you can't cement it back 
into the same china. She had been too proud 
to ask for help. The men had guessed her 
need. She would not ask me for help. In a 
certain part of our city was a group of women 
always in need of good nursery governesses. It 
took less than ten minutes to obtain a good 
position for that girl. Happy ending again, 
isn't it? Not by a long shot! Life isn't so sim- 
ple. A week later the woman, who had em- 
ployed her, telephoned me that she and her hus- 
band had never been so pleased with an em- 
ployee, she was one of those born Little Moth- 
ers made by God ; she was so fond and tender 
with children. Please look at that testimony: 
it is true of multitudes on the human scrap 
heap. Two months later, the same woman 
telephoned me. They had literally fired her 
out. I don't need to tell more — do I? 

What attracted her back to the office I don't 
know ; but one morning, when a woman had me 
pinioned on the telephone with detail piled on 
detail of a bal poudre or something for sweet 
charity's sake, somebody said there was a tipsy 



296 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

^'dove" on the stair who wanted to see me. I 
stepped out still holding the long string of the 
telephone. She was there standing with her 
back to the wall and the look on her face of a 
cornered thing spitting at Fate — hard, defiant, 
with slant-wise eyes of laughter at Life, and 
scorn for me and all my kind of unknowing 
sheltered women. ''Wait," I said, ''I'll finish 
here in one minute." 

She moved unsteadily down a step or two, 
looking back over her shoulder with the hard 
slant-wise laugh of defiance. 

"Can I do anything for you I" I asked, let- 
ting the telephone and the bal poudre and the 
charity swing in mid-air, as I leaned down over 
the railing. She kept moving down the stair. 
If I had been older, if I had had any sense, if 
my head had not been kiting about in clouds of 
self-righteousness as to "French realism de- 
moralizing our American idealism," I would 
have let the telephone and the bal poudre and 
telegraph wait, and gone down the stairs after 
that girl; but I didn't. I sav/ her shoulders 
shrug as she reached the first landing and 
turned a face of laughing hard defiance over 
her shoulder — "You — do — an 'thing for me?" 
she repeated slowly. "No — yu'r — too — late." 
The last seen of her was by one of the men 



A HAPPY WOMAN 297 

''hell's kitchen" for report of 
some criminal. 

And, now I repeat, is there anything in news- 
paper work for a woman ; or is it a Barmecide 
Feast? In this life, can women drink the full 
cup, that all human beings crave 1 Is it a struc- 
ture built up from foundations ; or is it a door 
from somewhere to somewhere else? Is it a 
job, or a vocation; an incident, or an accident? 
However this may be, there is no candle which 
singes the wings of more moths. Yearly, out of 
the seminaries, out of the universities, out of 
the homes, out of quiet retreats where no one 
dreamed the journalistic lure could reach, come 
armies of recruits to what they call newspaper 
life. Is it the artistic they seek? There is no 
calling where life must be reproduced in replica 
to swifter order with no time for art. Or is it 
just a plain job, an ultimate vocation, where 
you will take out just what you put in ? Do the 
hosts coming realize that success is a result, 
not an aim, in this life, and that the road up 
must be a training in all the way, at hard 
driving unflagging pace ? Do girls and women, 
longing vaguely to be journalists, think of that? 
Granted that the joy is in the game, and that 
newspaper work may become the gamiest and 
most absorbing kind of game, the question is, 
having learned, is the game worth the candle? 



298 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Always it is a vocation where the risks are 
great, the pay moderate, the tenure uncertain, 
the hours excessive, the pressure high and con- 
stant, with no future, no place for age. If one 
goes into newspaper life seeking glamour, big 
wages, easy earnings, security, there can be 
only disappointment and a throw-back of 
hopes. If one goes into the life seeking service, 
to do work that counts, to be grilled into fitness 
for work that counts, one will find what 
Rhodes, what Tennyson, what King Arthur, 
what all other workers have found — So much to 
do, so little done. 



A HAPrY WOMAN 299 



IX 



THE VORTEX A TRUE STORY CONCERNING SUB- 
AVERAGES 

It may be objected that this interpretation 
of Woman and Work so far deals only with 
girls who have had the background of educa- 
tion, home, helpful associates. "What of the 
myriads who are thrust by necessity out on 
life with no education, with no training, with 
no fitness? What of the tens of thousands in 
every big city who are plunged into the vortex 
of driving industry with no home for fortress 
of retreat in times of illness, idleness, discour- 
agement? What of those, who have either no 
associates, or only associates, who drag them 
down? Many a girl has had to choose between 
a loneliness more unbroken than prison life, 
without the security of prison life, and asso- 
ciates, that she knew to be detrimental. Shall 
we pass judgment of condemnation when she 
chooses wrong? How much better would we 
have done in her place ? 

In other words, if you were on the ragged 



300 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

edge of notliing; if you had no home but such 
as you made for yourself; if you had no sav- 
ings and had never earned wages that per- 
mitted savings; if you had little strength and 
were spasmodically losing your nerve from 
fear of want; if you had no security against 
want, and lost your job, and couldn't get an- 
other, what would you do? Particularl}^, what 
would you do, if you were a woman past forty, 
physically a good deal the worse for the wear 
and tear of city life; with streaks of gray in 
your hair that put you at a discount competing 
against the nimble agility of youth I Having 
through no fault of your own, started wrong, 
is there any vocation where you could begin 
again, where your mature experience could 
count against the nimble fingers of youth? 

Because there is such a chance for every 
woman out from the vortex of the city's great 
unemployed, out from under the wheels of the 
Juggernaut car, I am going to set down, with as 
strict accuracy to detail as I can recall, the 
story told to me word for word by one who 
found a way out, which every woman in like 
case could follow if she would. At the time of 
writing this, there has just been a meeting in 
New York of the city's unemplo^^ed women; 
and women, who had never before in their lives 
faced an audience, stood up and voiced the cry 



A IIAPPY WOMAN 301 

for work, for a clianco to livo. Among the 
Avliite goods workers alone, it was found that 
more than 22,000 were working on half time, 
that is, at wages from $3.50 to $4.50 a week. 
Among the shirtwaist and kimono makers, 
10,000 were entirely out of work, 14,000 on half 
time. Of the 75,000 women workers, allied with 
women's trades unions in New York alone, 
22,000 had been permanently laid off w^ork for 
the winter. When you consider that of all in- 
dustrial workers among women, not a tenth 
ally themselves with any trades unions what- 
soever, it is a pretty safe estimate to say that 
at least 100,000 women workers in industry are 
out of work in each of the big cities of the East 
in winter. This estimate is considered under 
the mark by the union women of New York, 
Philadelphia and Baltimore. 

What is the cause of it? Not hard times; 
for this country has never at any era in its 
history suffered hard times as that phrase is 
understood in other lands. Transition in styles, 
such as women no longer wearing yards and 
yards of white petticoats, may have something 
to do with one trade ; but that is only a surface 
shift of the great economic current throwing 
such multitudes adrift. 

If you look for the real cause, you will find 



302 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

it, not in shifting styles, but, as one woman, 
wlio began life at fourteen as a cap maker, ex- 
pressed it, in the perfection of the machine. 
One machine to-day does the work of five cash 
girls; one typewriter, the work of a dozen 
long-hand secretaries; one sewing machine, 
driven at top speed by electricity, the work of 
fifty women at hand-sewing; one canning fac- 
tory, with machinery self-driven and almost 
automatic, supplants ''mother's home-made 
pickles and preserves'' in ten thousand fami- 
lies. 

Do the workers, then, curse the machine and 
mob the inventor, as the weavers did a hundred 
years ago in England ? Not a bit of it ! I have 
never heard the faintest shade of resentment 
in tone toward the machine. Workers to-day 
realize that the machine has become the burden 
bearer of the age, a thing making possible 
ease of production in a way ancient wizards 
never dreamed and fairy tales could not in- 
vent. 

Meanwhile, what happens 1 Fingers of four- 
teen, fifteen, sixteen to twenty years old are 
nimbler, quicker, safer with the swift speeding 
shuttles, or steel cutters, or pleaters, than fin- 
gers of thirty-five to forty. Also in an age 
when competition is fierce as war of old, and 



A HAPPY WOMAN 303 

ovorhoad oxponsos the hcaviost ever known, 
•[in,i2:ers of fourteen, fifteen, sixteen are cheaper 
than the fingers of a mature and experienced 
woman, wlio lias a right to expect to be paid for 
her knowledge as well as her mechanism. 

Good! Turn on the power! Whirl the 
wheels ! Watch the shuttles flying so fast they 
are a blur to the eye! What happens? Those 
nimble fingers age twenty-five don't go so fast. 
The machine power has flagged and fagged the 
nerve power. At twenty-eight, there is an ac- 
cident, or broken finger, or a functional smash- 
up from exhausted vitalities. If you look over 
large audiences of the unemployed, you will be 
impressed by the fact that 75 per cent, of the 
idle are those over thirty-five years old; 25 
per cent., those under sixteen. At thirty-five 
and forty, is it to be the scrap heap? That is 
the question these armies of women in industry 
are asking themselves; and the fact that there 
are any hundred thousand women out of work, 
who want to work, who are desperate to work, 
who demand to live unharried by constant Fear 
of Want — by the Spectre of Gaunt Hunger — ■ 
is more than the sign of a startling economic 
transition. It is the century tragedy of a 
nachine age. It is the Frankenstein of our 
generation, when the horror w^e have created 
ievours its own otTspring. 



304* THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Is it necessary? Granted these out-of-works 
are drifters on an economic tide, which they 
can't control. Are so many hundreds of thou- 
sands a year to be permitted to become the flot- 
sam and jetsam of humanity? If so, it will 
come high in cost for hospitals and asylums 
and places of refuge. It will come still higher 
in bitter social discontent and hatred. Social- 
ists say — take over all instruments of produc- 
tion for the public! Doctrinaires say — let the 
government give these people a job! Philan- 
thropists say — let us give these people immedi- 
ate help ! The first two suggestions accomplish 
nothing ; for they are years away ; and the out- 
of-works are with us here and now, hungry and 
sullen at life. The last remedy relieves imme- 
diate need; but it doesn't go down to funda- 
mentals; and it offends self-respect; and it is 
like baling out water thro^vn in by the waves 
of a continuous tide. It helps; but it doesn't 
stop. Then, there is the system being tried 
successfully in Germany and New Zealand and 
Australia, government insurance against old 
age and want through a system of small weekly 
deductions from earnings; but this, like the 
remedies suggested by the Socialists and doc- 
trinaires, does not relieve immediate want. 
This system is not in vogue yet, and requires 
years to bring its beneficiaries any returns. 



J 



A HAPPY WOMAN S05 

There is no use saying — these people are un- 
fits; or they woukl have hoisted themselves out 
of their predicament by their own efforts. As 
well tell a man to lift himself up by his boot 
straps. They are not un-fits. They are mis- 
fits. You show how; and they will do the hoist- 
ing themselves all right. It isn't — what can a 
woman do, which implies a victim in a trap. It 
is — ivhat a ivonian can do, which implies a way 
out of dilemmas; so I sliall tell the absolutely 
true story of the woman who found her way 
out, as nearly in her own words as possible: 

''I belonged to that t>^e of family from 
which so many girls who have to earn their liv- 
ing come. We were neither rich nor poor. We 
were never in debt; but w^e never saved. My 
mother did not believe in the new fashion of 
women going out to earn a living. She believed 
that every Avoman should marry early and set- 
;le down with a little family of her own. She 
lid not believe in what you call women-in-in- 
lustry. Neither did I. I did not think that 
vvas what w^omen w^ere made for ; and I used to 
^eel a little bit of superiority and contempt, 
A^hen my old girl friends of the high school 
)egan going out to w^ork in offices and factories. 
We lived in a little New England factory town. 
!f you know anything about factory towns, you 



306 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

will know that the successful men of the family 
drift to the city, while the women stay on in 
the factories. 

*^You can think anything you like about 
marrying; but there simply aren't enough men 
to go round in these little villages, any more 
than there are in England. Now that it is all 
over and done with, I know where I made my 
first terrible mistake and sinned, and have paid 
in suffering for my sin; but lots of women do 
the same thing; and it doesn't turn out a mis- 
take. I believed I was doing what it was the 
duty of every woman to do — marry; and it 
seems a poor sort of joke now; but I would 
rather have died young than had my name go 
on a tombstone as an 'old maid.' That used 
to be one of the jokes of our house. Well, I 
married! I suppose at the time I thought I 
was marrying for love ; but I know now that I 
wasn't, that I married for a home, for a man 
to support me, as thousands of other girls 
marry ; and I was too young to realize that the 
man I had chosen, married me as a sort of 
protection against his own way^vardness. He 
needed support that I couldn't give, that I 
wasn't old enough to give him. I think we 
both unconsciously tricked each other. He 
thought if he married a good girl, it would keep 
hiTTi straight. I thought if I married a smart 



A HAPPY WOMAN 307 

fellow, it would protect me from the blasts of 
the world. You see we were both simply lov- 
ing self and didn't know it. Our marriage was 
a cheat on both sides. 

'^^ly brother and I had gone on an excursion 
to New York for the day. The man, I was to 
marry, was one of the old boys from our high 
school. We met him by chance on the street, 
and he asked us to have lunch with him in one 
of the big Broadway restaurants. Jokingly, 
my brother turned to me as we were going to 
meet him in the restaurant: 'There is a catch 
for you, Sade! Mack earns twelve-hundred a 
year as bookkeeper in Wall St. and you can 
judge from his dress and style of living how 
much he must earn on the side.' My brother 
always said something like that to me, when 
I met a likely man. I didn't answer; but I 
thought a lot. He was the best dressed man 
1 had ever met; and he looked so prosperous. 
You could see the waiters jump to serve him 
the minute he entered. Though I was a coun- 
try simpleton, I had eyes in my head and 
couldn't help seeing how the necks of all the 
women in the restaurant craned as he passed. 
The check he paid for our lunch amounted to 
seven dollars; and he tipped the waiter fifty 
cents. Then, he took us to a matinee. At the 
train, saying good-by, he told us he intended 



308 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

to spend his holidays back home for the first 
time in years. My brother looked at me queer- 
ly. On the train, he said: 'Mack always was 
a four-flusher spending. Only thing I have 
against him is that diamond ring he wears on 
his little finger.' How could I confess that 
diamond ring was on my own finger under my 
glove, where I had promised to wear it till he 
came up for his holidays? 

''We were married at the end of his holidays. 
The only inkling of anything amiss came from 
an old maid aunt, who threw cold water on 
everybody and everything. She was knitting 
in the corner by the chimney the day before 
our wedding. 

" 'So he is a free spender/ she said. She 
always clicked her needles when she was go- 
ing to say something horrid. 'It's all right for 
them as has it,' clicking very fast and hard, 
*but them as has it don't usually spend it; and 
them as spend it don't usually have it' 

"It shocked my country ideas to find we 
were paying a rent of $50 a month for our small 
apartment east of Fourth Avenue near 23rd 
Street. It seemed a great deal to pay half 
one 's income in rent. At home, when my father 
earned $60 a month, we never paid more than 
$10 for rent; but when I spoke to my husband 



A HAPPY WOMAN 309 

about it, be told me to leave business matters 
to bim. He woubl leave bousebold matters 
to me. It would affect bis standing witb tbe 
fellows, if tbey tbougbt be couldn't afford as 
good an apartment for bis wife, as tbese bacbe- 
lor boys bad for tbemselves. Wbo tbe fel- 
lows were, I didn't know. Not a soul came to 
see us for tliat first year in New York. It was 
fearfully lonely. I bave often wondered if 
tbere is no way for all tbe lonely people in tbe 
big cities to meet and comfort one anotber. I 
used to be glad to pass tbe time of day witb 
tbe ball boy, or tbe milk man; and tbere didn't 
seem any way to form friends, or make ac- 
quaintances. I used to clean tbe apartment 
and reclean it and walk tbe streets and parade 
tbe departmental stores to keep from being 
pbysically sick witb loneliness ; but in tbe even- 
ings and on Sundays, wben my Imsband was 
borne, we were very bappy. I really tbiuk it 
is tliat kind of loneliness drives so many young 
people out to tbe dance balls, and tbe moving 
pictures, and tbe cbeap restaurants. We got 
into tbe way of going to tbe cbeap sbows on 
Saturday niglits, and to tbe cbeap restaurants 
for dinner on Sundays. Tbat is all we could 
afford. Really, we couldn't afford tbat; but 
I didn't know it. I used to long for tbe birtb 
of our baby for company. I bad intended to 



310 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

go up home for the baby; but my father died 
that winter; and my mother went to live with 
a married brother. 

^' ^So you won't go up home for the arrival 
of His Little Royal Highness!' my husband 
asked. 

*^ 'How can I?' I answered. 

*'He seemed terribly worried. I asked him 
if finances w^ere not all right. He answered, 
'of course!' Would I never learn to leave 
finances to him? Business was for men; and 
so on^ like that ! It was a day or two after that 
the diamond ring was missed, the one he had 
given me that afternoon at the matinee. I 
wanted to have the police question the hall 
boys; but my husband would not hear of it, 
that would only put the thief on guard. He 
would employ a private detective to rake the 
pawn shops. That night, he was late coming 
home to dinner. I was wild with anxiety and 
nervousness ; and I could not go out for him. I 
tried to telephone the Wall St. brokerage firm; 
but the office had closed for the day. It was 
a rainy summer night, that brought back the 
very smells of the rose gardens up home. A 
hurdy-gurdy was playing, ' The Wearing of the 
Green,' or something in the street below our 
wiadow; and a lot of ragged children were 



A HAPPY WOMAN till 

dancing round and round in the gutter. A 
faint feeling came over me. What if anything 
happened so that our child would be a poor 
youngster like those below the window? Had 
I done all my part? Was the woman's part 
to let the man support her? In olden days, 
women used to spin and sew and make all the 
food. Now, all that is done outside. I can 
never hear a hurdy-gurdy yet without that 
same faint feeling, it was a sort of horror. 

' ' There is no use going back over that night. 
It cripples me to dwell on it. I wanted to send 
for the police ; but was afraid. I sat paralyzed 
all night listening and listening for steps. By 
and by, all the steps stopped, and there was 
nothing but the roar of the Third Avenue L. 
By morning, I was walking the floor with ter- 
ror. The minute the clock pointed nine, I 
called up the brokerage office. The boy, who 
answered, didn't know who was speaking and 
for a second didn't catch the name. Then, he 
said, ^Oh! yes. Mack, he ain't been here for 
weeks ! He was fired for swoipin' office funds !' 

''I was stunned. I couldn't believe it. I 
wouldn't let myself think of the missing ring; 
but the morning mail killed my last hope. It 
was a little curt note. It said: 'Don't try to 
trace me. There has been a mix-up in the of- 
fice checks. If you trace me, it will end in my 



312 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

arrest and your disgrace. Better go back 
home. ' 

^'Home! There was no home; and he knew 
it. I, who had married to escape facing life 
and earning a living outside the home, had now 
to earn a living for two! I was untrained. I 
was unskilled. I was temperamentally unfit for 
any kind of work but in a home. I was one of 
the thousands of helpless women thrown on 
the big cities, the very fate I had married to 
escape. I was ashamed to go back to my na- 
tive place, humiliated and disgraced. There 
was no place for me there. My brothers had 
married. One was supporting my mother ; and 
his wife resented that. Our home factories 
were running slack. There was no work there. 

^'I didn't come to my senses enough to know 
what to do till I was convalescing from the 
birth of the baby in the maternity hospital. I 
used to think I would be so happy when the 
baby came ; but now I couldn 't look at him with- 
out crying out as if something stabbed me. | 
Furniture, we paid $1,200 for, I sold to the sec- 
ond hand shops for $300. Of that, $50 went to 
the maternity hospital, and $50 for the rent of 
the apartment the month I had been away. 
That left me $200. While I worked, I arranged 
to have the baby cared for in the day at a 



A HAPPY WOMAN 313 

church nursery. Then I paid $50 for a spe- 
cial course in stenography and typewriting 
with the use of a machine for practice. That 
left me $150. I rented a little back hall bed- 
room with the use of a bathroom, wdiere I 
could do my own washing and light cooking. 
This took $3.50 a week. Try as I would, I 
could not keep my living expenses down lower 
than 30 cents a day, 5 cents for breakfast, cof- 
fee and a roll without butter; 10 cents for 
lunch near the shorthand school, a sandwich 
and coffee ; and 15 cents for supper, coffee and 
a roll and soup, or a small piece of meat, a 
cheap cut ; and when it rained so that I had to 
take the car to and from the shorthand school, 
I had to skip one meal to keep my expenses 
down to 30 cents a day. That made my living 
$5.60 a week. I used to count and count at 
night, that, at this cost, my principal couldn't 
last longer than thirty Aveeks, and I had made 
up my mind never to spend my last $10. I al- 
ways wanted enough left to reach my brothers. 
AVhat if I were unable to learn in thirty weeks! 
What if I couldn't get a position? The papers 
were full of accounts of girls lured to dens 
through advertisements for stenographers. 

**It is right here that if some of the able 
rich women, who want to help, w^ould, they 



314 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

could save so mucli suffering and waste. If I 
could have had some one, who was not knocked 
silly mth fright, to advise me in the hospital, I 
should not have studied stenography at all. I 
should have done then what I did two years 
later after such suffering I hate to recall it. I 
was not cut out for a stenographer. Spelling 
and punctuation always bothered me. A sharp 
word from the person dictating rattled me so 
I lost my head and made more blunders than 
ever. The only thing I loved doing and wanted 
always to do and had looked forward to doing 
as my life work — was home making, cooking 
and sewing and housekeeping; but there was 
no one to tell me there was any market value 
for these things. I hadn't the faintest idea 
any more than any other young girl has that 
while every other vocation is crowded ivith 
more workers than there is work, the one voca- 
tion where there is always more work than 
there are workers, the one vocation where a 
capable girl can get pretty Jiearly any price 
she asks is home snaking. I suppose if I 
thought of it at all I thought of house work as 
being a servant, stuck away in a basement bed- 
room off a dark hall next to the ash cans. I 
didn't know there was such a thing as domestic 
science. I did know there was scientific nurs- 
ing; but I didn't take up nursing because I 



A HAPPY WOMAN 315 

didn't know what to do with my baby during 
the years of training. A woman worldly vdse 
would have known all those things and could 
have told me. 

"The other way in which rich women could 
help is in training such misfits as I was to 
find and fill and fit a special place. Why should 
any girl at the very end of her resources have 
to pay out $50 to learn her job? I had thought 
of dress-making; but at one dress-making 
school where I applied, the cost would have 
been $60; and at a school of design, where I 
wanted to learn millinery, the charge would 
have been $40. If the women, who form clubs 
for struggling girls would provide training 
for various vocations — yes, even training in 
cooking — they would have thousands of appli- 
cants a year, and could save girls from the 
employment sharks and fake design schools, 
where they are bled to their last dollar. 

**One other point for the women who want 
to help — many a girl, when she has finished 
her training, has not enough money left to fur- 
nish car fare ; and there begins a weary tramp 
over miles of city streets to places of possible 
emplojTnent. I have walked ten miles in a 
day, say from 60th Street to the Battery and 
back, and gone to a dozen different shops and 
offices, and found the same siim out on each 



316 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

door — No Applicants for Work Needed. (Au- 
thor's note: at the very time of writing this, a 
firm in New York moved into a large new de- 
partmental store. They advertised for 1,100 
helpers. Only 500 of the applicants had had 
sufficient training to qualify them for the work ; 
and of the 500, according to the manager, who 
employed them, only 50 were thoroughly com- 
petent, above the average. The firm was liter- 
ally compelled to open a school to train its em- 
ployees for its various departments, giving 
them a living wage during the course of train- 
ing. If the associations for the betterment of 
women workers' lives could keep a roof over 
the strugglers, while they steered them into the 
training schools, a deal of waste could be 
saved, and incompetency, the basic fact of all 
struggling, could be prevented.) 

*^At the end of four months training and 
searching, I did get a position in one of the big 
departmental stores, where one-hundred-and- 
fifty other stenographers were employed on the 
out-of-town mail order department. I got this 
position through the girl who shared the bath- 
room with me as a place to cook and wash. She 
was a manicurist, who received $1.50 a day in 
the ladies' parlor of the same store. She 
heard of a girl who was leaving and really 



A HAPPY WOMAN 317 

had me slipped in before I knew it. She was 
a wonderful little thing, French, I think. She 
had come from San Francisco, working her way 
across the continent from point to point by 
manicuring. She had paid her Pullman fare 
from Omaha to New York by manicuring 
ladies' nails on the train. I asked her why 
she had come to New^ Y^ork. She said she 
wanted 'to see life,' and she 'meant to land 
some swell guy with money.' I asked her 
what she would have done in my case. She 
said before any man 'got' her, he would have 
to settle so much money on her 'snug and tight' 
before the ceremony. Her views left me sort 
of sick; but then, had my motives been any 
better? She was full of catchwords she had 
heard at lectures about 'efficiency' and 'aver- 
age' and 'sub-average' and 'super-average'; 
about plans to get on. She said she, herself, 
was only 'an average'; but she meant to be a 
'super-average.' She told me one of our women 
who was a foreign buyer had a salary of $7,500 
a year, and that the head cashier or auditor on 
the main floor, a married woman about thirty- 
five years of age, got $5,000 a year and had 
never been caught in a mistake in ten years. 
She said that both these women had begun in 
the Chicago branch of the store at $1.50 a 
week. They had come to work with their 'hair 



318 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

in pig tails tied with a shoe string.' They 
were pointed out as examples of what we might 
become ; but the hitch in that was they were 
perfect fits; we were misfits. They were cut 
out for exactly the work they were doing. I 
was not fitted for the work I was doing. I 
had always been called a perfect housekeeper; 
and in the matter of buying household supplies 
and clothes, I could make a dollar go as far as 
most women make ten ; but in stenography, my 
fingers were all thumbs. I didn't think quickly 
and grasp the meaning; so that I was always 
slow. In my work, I was very much a 'sub- 
average.' I was a fore-ordained failure. My 
wages were $6 a week ; and, looking back now, 
I know it was more than I was worth. I broke 
my machine on an average once a month. 
Twice, the repairs cost $2. I was not docked 
for them. I often had to do the simplest let- 
ters over twice; and though I was called down 
for erasures, I was never dismissed for my 
blunders. I think that was because it was so 
plain that I was trying hard. I had to take 
a cheaper room, this time at $2.50 a week, so 
near the store that I would never need to take 
the street car. Later, I found a room far over 
on the West side below 12th Street at $1.50 a 
week. I was now able to cut my living ex- 
penses down to $1.50 a week. This left $3 to 



A lIArrV WOMAN 319 

clotlie tho baby and myself. The baby, after 
the first month, I left with a German woman 
who lived in the same tenement. She took care 
of that baby in the day for nothing. I want 
to tell that; because that is the kind of help 
that counts for more than the investigations of 
vice committees, or the lectures of philanthro- 
pists. We are told that girls who work in the 
factories and stores should save for holidays 
and old age. If any one will tell me how I 
could save off that salary, I wish they would. 
One day I remember I w^as sent from the 
stenographers' department to pilot an out-of- 
town customer round the store. She asked me 
what I was paid, and, when I told her, threw up 
her hands. 

<< ^Why in the world don't you go West?' she 
asked. 'Out West, they pay apple and orange 
pickers $2 and $3 a day. You girls are like 
our orange growers, before they learned how to 
distribute their oranges on the market. Or- 
anges used to lie and rot on our ranches. 
Then, we found out how to distribute oranges ; 
and now no orange grower loses. Why do you 
stay congested in these big centers like rats in 
a cellar?' 

*'I looked her straight in the eye. 'Lady,' 
I said, 'I don't go West because I can't walk.' 

''I don't think she heard me. She w^as talk- 



S20 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

ing in blue streaks like this — ^Perfect outrage 
to pay such wages! Don't wonder girls go to 
the devil.' (I wanted to tell her they didn't; 
not half as much as idle women. They hadn't 
time; but she never stopped for breath.) 
* Women should boycott stores that pay such 
wages.' (She had just bought a sealskin sacque 
from us.) * A law ought to be passed establish- 
ing a minimum wage of $12 at the least for any 
girl, who works.' (What difference would 
that have made, I wonder ! There were lots of 
girls in our store getting more than $12. It 
was because I was a misfit that I did not earn 
more. If such a law were passed, the store 
would simply be compelled to throw out us 
'sub-averages' and double up high speed work 
for those left.) *Why, there are millions of 
homes in the West that can't get help for love 
or money, not for $40 a month and board. Why 
do you stay in these city rat holes? Why don't 
you go West?' 

*^She might as well have asked me — ^why 
don't you jump over the moon. 'Lady,' I said, 
good and hard this time, 'I don't go West be- 
cause I can't walk.' 

''And that's another way the strong women 
could help the weak, if they wanted to; but, 
after all, we have to work it out for ourselves. 



A HAPPY WOMAN SU 

Several things impressed me more and more 
the longer I was in that store. We girls and 
women were on the wrong tack. You can't get 
joy out of work unless it is a sort of personal 
service. Unless you own your job in some sort 
of permanent way, you won't sing over it. My 
grandfather was a shoemaker; and he always 
sang as he cobbled. My father went into a fac- 
tory; and he never sang. He got crusty and 
short over his work. Then, speed is the key 
note of success in modern work. You work 
up speed; then you speed up more. Y^ou live 
a sort of breathless existence that isn't life. 
If the machine breaks, a new one is bought. If 
the operator breaks, a new operative is got. 
It eats up your youth, and gives you back only 
a crust of bread. The more experienced you 
are, the less value you are. That is why so 
many women workers call themselves Miss 
when they are Mrs., and wear false bangs, and 
dye their hair. I began to call myself Miss, my 
second year. The forewoman told me — 'We 
don't like customers to think we are an old 
lady's home'! 

''Then, John Eockefeller can talk 'save,' to 
the crack of doom. There is no 'save,' or 'safe' 
either for us 'sub-averages.' When I moved 
from our first apartment to the back hall room, 
I was still in a decent neicrhborhood. When 



322 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

I moved to the $1.50 room, the neighborhood 
was decent enough but it was not sanitary. 
There was no elevator in the tenement; and 
there was no ventilation. You could smell 
stale toilets from the front stair. There was 
only one dirty bath room for each floor, and 
perhaps twenty-five tenants lived on each floor 
— ^sub-renters,' I suppose the little manicurist 
would have called 'sub-averages' like myself. 
The windows of the inner court were littered 
with milk jars and plates of butter and meat 
placed on the ledge to keep cool; and Monday's 
washing always hung on lines stretched from 
window to ^\indow of the inner court. A wind 
could blow wash drip across our food. Some of 
the faces leering round the doors were terri- 
ble, fat half-dressed drunken women, and fat 
half-dressed sottish men. I have no judgment 
or blame for either the girls or the men. They 
were desperate for life. I used to feel after 
the end of the second year that, if I did not 
have a holiday or change, I would scream out 
with hysterics at night. I used to waken my- 
self moaning in my sleep. I suppose these girls 
and men felt the same. They all looked as if 
they craved terribly for something. Where up- 
town folks drank champagne over beefsteak, 
these people had beer over chop suey. I guess 
they; were as much God's children as the up- 



A HAPPY WOMAN 323 

town folks, too! Once the German woman, 
who kept my baby, told me how the priest in 
her home village used to have his people come 
and dance on the village green every Sunday 
afternoon. For ns, there was no village 
green. There were only the movies, the dance 
halls, Coney Island. There didn't seem any 
wholesome joy left in work. 

''One evening, when the beer drinkers grew 
screaming noisy, I took my baby, no\v a wee 
toddler, and went out for a walk. I wandered 
from Third Avenue over West across tow^ard 
Madison along the bro^vn stone fronts. A col- 
ored cook stepped from one of the basement 
doors and threw a tin of potted beef in the 
garbage can. Before I knew it, I had the most 
terrible physical hunger for that can of potted 
beef, for ice-cream, for a 'fizz' drink, for beer, 
for anything with a taste, a lift, a kick to it, in 
place of the soup slops I had been living on 
for two years. I wanted to break out and 
do something. Then, I knew what sent the 
girls in the tenement to the beer gardens and 
back room saloons. It was a craving of sys- 
tems that were, well, you can't call them 
starved, but not nourished. A girl's body and 
soul crave something beside a crust of bread. 
It frightened me with the same faint sick feel- 



324 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

ing I had had that night the hurdy-gurdies 
played below the apartment window. I 
seemed to know suddenly why boys and girls 
went to hell. Those drunken leering fat men 
and women round the door, who often screamed 
and fought till daybreak had been boys and 
girls too, once. I think they fought and beat 
each other sometimes just for a nervous bust. 
I suddenly felt as if the city pavements were 
full of manholes that sucked youth down into 
sewers and cesspools; and surely God meant 
youth for something else. I thought He meant 
it for us to pass on to our children; and now 
I felt something wild and insurgent in me 
ready to go to hell. I suppose doctors would 
say that was the mother instinct in me starved. 
It wasn't. It was the soul and body of me 
starved for spiritual and physical food. I felt 
I would either have to harden and deaden; or 
go to Hell. I wonder if those girls, who go 
to Hell desperate for life, aren't better in God's 
eyes than we respectable girls are, who just 
quit feeling things by letting our souls turn 
to stone! 

*'Here are two other places the strong women 
can help if they want to, I mean with decent 
apartments and hotels for girls who work; 
and with cheap cafaterias with nourishing 



A HAPPY WOMAN 325 



food for 10 cents; and with places for whole- 



ome amusement." 



(Autlior^s note: Mrs. Belmont's suffrage 
rooms, Miss Morgan's Vacation Committee 
Headquarters for workers, Tremont Inn, the 
Woman's Trade Union Restaurant, the Y. W. 
C. A.'s and other similar club homes did not 
exist at this time, though it should be empha- 
sized very strongly that, if there were a thou- 
sand such club rooms, they could not begin to 
fill the need to-day, of protection for the 
myriad armies of youth, whose feet are en- 
meshed in the economic net of the great cities.) 

' ' I had been w^orking now for over two years, 
and I had saved not a cent; and I knew other 
women more competent than I was, who had 
worked for twenty years and saved not a cent. 
I was now twenty-three. I had never been 
really hungry, but I craved ever^^thing a woman 
should have, nourishment, rest, fun, security. 
Surely, this is not much to demand of life. 
Surely, God meant us to laugh and dance and 
sing, to be secure from horror and want. I 
was only twenty-three; but I was losing my 
nerve. Why? Because I was, not unfit, but 
a misfit ; and I w^as lonely with a loneliness that 
was sometimes a terrible deep black pit. It 
was just Hell. If I had not had the baby, but 
no, I'll not admit that, though God knows if 



326 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

I had not had the baby and any man asked me 
to have either beer or whiskey with him that 
night, I might have joined the noisy screams 
and dancers next door. I could have gone to 
hell in one jiffy! Anyway, I don't want to 
shock you and I don't suppose you'd publish 
it if I did say it, but after that night I some- 
how never could find it in my heart to condemn 
a girl in the big city even if she went ninety- 
nine times and nine, that's the Scripture num- 
ber, isn't it! straight to hell! 

'^I made up my mind I'd place my baby in 
one of those church nurseries again; so he 
would be well nourished. I wonder, if in the 
bottom of my heart, I wanted to be free to 
have my fling. There was a shirtwaist fac- 
tory do^vn Fourteenth Street way, where I de- 
cided I'd try for a position at $10 a week, if 
I could only keep up the speed for those elec- 
tric machines. I know you are wondering how 
I could be so stupid as not to learn that all 
these experiences were simply driving me 
from w^here I didn't belong to where I did be- 
long, and where every woman belongs, into the 
one thing I was fit for; but I figured this way: 
$1,50 a week would pay for my baby's keep; 
$1.50 more v^ould pay for my room. I would 
have to raise on the cost of food and clothing. 



A HAPPY WOMAN 327 

I was going under. Put these at $3 a week. 
I could still do my ovm. washing and clean- 
ing on Sundays. That would leave $.1: a week! 
$4 a week might mean $200 a year saved, if 
you didn't mangle a finger, or break down, or 
lose your job in slack seasons. As I said be- 
fore, I am not quick. I am 'sub-average.' I 
am faithful and thorough. Could I risk my 
certain job for an uncertain try I 

'^I kept thinking of it all week till Sunday, 
when I went to arrange for the baby to go out 
to the country with the church nursery. That 
last ten dollars, I had faithfully kept all these 
two years tucked in an envelope pinned inside 
my dress. If I were a misfit and ' sub-average,' 
at any cost I must find the place I could fit 
and reconstruct my life. I must quit being a 
round peg in a square hole. I must stop drift- 
ing; or I would end a wreck. I skipped lunch 
and spent my 10 cents taking the 'bus out Fifth 
Avenue. At 8Gth Street where the conductor 
calls 'all out,' I noticed a handsome girl in 
the costume of a trained nurse, wheeling a 
baby carriage and leading another child about 
three years old by the hand. Xo! Don't you 
think help came rushing out of the rich house 
to me like the fairy god-mother! It didn't; 
and it never does. We have to work it out 



328 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

ourselves ; but just as I came down off the 'bus, 
that little two year old dived away from his 
keeper straight in front of a big touring car. 
No, I didn't save his life ! It isn't any wonder 
yarn I'm telling you. I grabbed him by the 
neck and humped him back kicking to the 
trained nurse. He fought and screamed; and 
for a minute, I held the little carriage to keep 
it from blowing over in the wind. The cos- 
tumed nurse thanked me without looking up; 
but a thought had come to me in a flash. 

^' ^Excuse me,' I said, 'but are you a trained 
hospital nurse?' 

*'Then, she looked up. She must have sized 
up in one glance my sallow gaunt face, and 
shabby genteel pride, and draggled dress. 
There were tags on my petticoats. Being a 
nurse she must have known that I had skipped 
meals. 

'' 'Sure I am,' she laughed. 'I began as a 
trained hospital nurse; and here I am ending 
up a baby nurse for this naughty pair ! What 
is the matter with you; and where do you 
work?' 

"I mentioned the name of the big store. 

*' 'And get about twenty-five a month, and 
spend it all slaving your life out. Well, I'm 
not sorry for you! You might as well be in 



A HAPPY WOMAN S29 

a c:oo(l home saving as much as the Quane of 
England had for spending money. If I could 
spend five years and seven hundred dollars on 
my education and don't consider it a come 
down to do what I'm doing, you girls, who are 
hetween the devil and deep sea, shouldn't con- 
sider your dignity such fine china that it would 
go to smash over domestic science.' (Author's 
note: whoever the nurse was, she enunciated 
simple truth. The Queen of England had less 
than $25 a month for an allowance as a girl; 
and the new system of nursing established in 
many European cities, combining kindergar- 
ten, Montessori features and hospital training, 
costs about seven hundred dollars and takes 
nearly five years.) 

*^ 'Quane,' that is the way she said it. I 
never saw that nurse again and she probably 
never thought of me again ; but her sound hard 
sense had sort of kicked a door open out of my 
trap. What was it the average girl looked 
forward to as her life w^ork? W^hat w^as it she 
wanted? Home-making, the trained nurse 
had called it 'domestic science.' What was it 
the average woman was best fitted for? — 
Home-making. What was the one vocation in 
which I was not 'sub-average' nor even 'aver- 
age,' but was ahvays 'super-average'? Home- 



S30 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

making — domestic science — the science for 
which every other science and vocation exist. 

*^And here I was among the army of misfits, 
because I hadn^t had sense to find my fit. Was 
that trained nurse, getting probably twenty 
a week and board, any lonelier than I in my 
back tenement room, with not a cent above the 
margin of mere existence ? Was she not safer, 
securer, happier? But she had called it do- 
mestic science. Was home-making a science? 
I began to figure out what she said about sav- 
ing. Could I but get twenty-five a month and 
keep, I could save three times more than John 
Eockefeller had earned the first ten years of 
his life. Gee! It made me dizzy! I felt as 
if I had been having a nightmare and had just 
wakened up. 

^^ Years ago, what had sent our New England 
boys and girls into factories? The fact that 
they could earn bigger money in the factories 
than in the home ; that there were more factory 
jobs than home jobs ; but now, was there a sin- 
gle home in all New York, was there a single 
home in all the United States, always sure of 
home help? Was there enough domestic help 
to go round all the homes in the United States ? 

''We women had been hopelessly on the 
wrong tack. We had been shunning training 
for the one thing we all looked forward to. 



I 



A HAPPY WOMAN 331 

I thought of what the customer from the West 
had said to me — 'There are millions of homes 
can't get help for love or money, for $40 a 
month and board/ Wasn't it the same right 
here in New York, where I had been starveling 
along, where a hundred thousand like me w^ere 
always starveling along? Wliat w^as the mat- 
ter with us? Was it the word 'servant'? Were 
we such snobs? Was 'servant' any worse 
badge than 'slave'; and w^ere women, whose 
very lives depended on permission to operate 
a machine owmed by some man, any better than 
slaves with a serf's ring round their necks? 
Why did we shun domestic help? Few of the 
factory w^omen earned more than $12 a w-eek. 
The majority did not earn $6 steady the year 
round. A good nurse help to look after chil- 
dren, a good housekeeper, a good general help 
could earn at the least $25 a month and board 
and clothes w^ith two afternoons off a week; 
at the most up to $40 and $50 clear, that trained 
nurse must have been earning $100 clear. What 
was the matter ivith lis that ive shunned this 
one open door, and hatted our stupid brains 
out against the ivall of the impossible in indus- 
trial life? 

"What a woman can save is the exact meas- 
ure of her security against want and danger. 



332 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

In domestic vocations, she can save practically 
four-fifths of what she earns. In industrial 
vocations she can save — what can she save? 
(State and federal statistics show that the 
average earnings in industrial vocations are 
under $6 a week — Author's note.) I could save 
nothing. I was on the ragged edge of want 
and desperation, and don't forget the night I 
craved the can of potted meat! I was on the 
ragged edge of plain hell. In this vocation, 
honesty, thoroughness, faithfulness had a 
market value. Had they fed into the electric- 
sped-up, devil's inventions of machines? Do- 
mestic vocations demanded a uniform. So did 
our stenographic. We had to wear black 
dresses with white cuffs and collars. So does 
a nun's vocation demand a costume. So does 
the trained nurse 's ; and that costume protects 
her wherever she goes. So does an ambassa- 
dor's vocation demand a costume. Why should 
domestic help resent a uniform? What was 
the matter with us? Were we fools and vic- 
tims of words? Were we to be sneered out of 
life by prejudice ? Were we foolish snobs ? 

(Author's Note: There isn't a well-to-do 
home to-day that isn't on the ragged edge of 
desperation for help; and there isn't a city to- 
day that hasn't its armies of women, thrown 



A HAPPY WOMAN 333 

on the scrap heap by industry, on the ragged 
edge of desperation for a home. Why don't 
they come together? Is the washing of dishes 
so much more repulsive than the washing of 
small-pox sores by the trained nurse, or the 
swabbing of diphtheritic throats, or the anoint- 
ing of syphilitic contagions, which any nurse 
in every hospital has to do any day of her life 
at imminent risk to her own health? Are we 
so democratic in this most democratic of all 
nations that it is really snobbery that drives 
a hundred thousand women a year on the scrap 
heap of industrialism? Let us banish the word 
^'servant," and substitute the word domestic 
help, as we have substituted the word sur- 
geon for leech! All of which reminds me of a 
curious experience of my own recently. I was 
interested in a little girl, who was wrecking 
her health studying for a vocation she could 
never possibly fill with financial profit to her- 
self. She was a splendid little housekeeper, 
thorough, conscientious, careful; and I asked 
her mother why she didn't let her daughter 
take a course in domestic science instead of 
plugging at Latin and foreign languages. The 
mother looked at me with one long blank stare. 
**Do you mean — do you — mean — servant?" 
she slowly glowered. ^'Of course I don't. I 
mean the science of domestic life — the chem- 



334 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

istry of cooking, the botany of gardening, the 
finances of housekeeping," I tried to explain. 
She aknost threw me out of that house. 

It may be asked, as the proof of the pudding 
is in the eating, would I, the author of this 
book, earn my living by manual labor. What 
one has done is a very much better answer 
than what one says one would do. As the nar- 
rative of this book shows, I stumbled into men- 
tal work because I hadn't the sense or inde- 
pendent vision to see how much happier, 
healthier and better I would have been taking 
up manual outdoor work. When health 
smashed, I learned my blunder. When sweat 
shop pressure was tried on one in mental work, 
I made up my mind henceforth never to be 
without my own sit-fast acres, where I could 
swat physical facts with my own physical 
hands. When tired out mentally, yes, I have 
trekked off to Europe, to Florida, to Grand 
Canyon, to the Pacific, and to the wilds; but 
the joy of the wilds has been to me that I could 
work physically, cook my own meals, build my 
own camp fires, groom and saddle my own 
horse, paddle my own canoe, though I have had 
to ride forty miles at a stretch, and have pad- 
dled for hours in storms that drenched me to 
the skin in ice cold water. Where was the 
fun? I answer, in being alive; in doing what 



I 



A HAPPY WOMAN 335 

I sweet-pleased physically; in proving to my- 
self that my brains were not turning to punk 
and my muscles to the flabby consistency of 
jelly; in a word, in getting the Chinese boots 
of conventional life off my soul, and the stran- 
gle-hold of a mummied, mural existence off my 
body. To-day, I never ask my help to do any 
thing on my land that I cannot turn to and do 
with my own hands if I need to. A woman 
known on three continents as the richest and 
most talented hostess on the Pacific Coast, a 
woman who has entertained royalty of Eng- 
land and royalty of India and presidents of 
our own land, and who has been entertained by 
all three, told me that when she and her hus- 
band w^ere building one of their seaside houses, 
they grew so disgusted with the slow fumbling 
pace of the carpenters that when the outside 
work was finished, they summarily fired all 
help, and that she and her sister with their 
own hands finished the entire interior of the 
house, themselves, including lath work, plaster 
board, panels, fireplaces, floors, all but the ac- 
tual placing of doors, w^indows and plumbing, 
which required skilled labor. I know another 
woman famed for her skill in outdoor sports 
who built her own summer house, except the 
foundation and walls and roof beams. When 
I asked her why she did it, she turned squarely 



336 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

on me, and retorted — *'Why not?'^ So I con- 
fess I have no s^Tnpathy whatsoever with the 
half-baked snobbery that belittles and bewails 
manual work. Work to me is joy not woe; 
and the wail chiefly comes, not from the worth 
whiles, who do things, but from the half-way- 
ups insecure of their own climbing and the 
parasites, who batten slugwise on the under 
side of life.) 

To resume the story of the woman, who 
found her way out : ' ^ I walked back to my mean 
tenement lodging from 86th Street, and, as I 
walked, I came to my decision. Even if I had 
been fitted, built on wires instead of nerves, 
for electrified machine-driven industry, where 
would it leave me at thirty-five? Worn out, 
with little saved, if a cent. In domestic science, 
I could save at least four-fifths of what I 
earned. The next day, I put my application 
in at two employment agencies for the position 
of domestic help. Here, again, is a place where 
the rich women who want to help, can. I had 
to pay a $2 fee at each employment agency; 
and the places found for me were neither suit- 
able nor safe. In one, the man of the house 
was a danger for any woman inmate of that 
home. I left in a week. The wages were $5 
a week. In the next place the woman was 



J 



A HAPPY WOMAN 337 

dishonest and unfair. She expected her help 
to rise at 5 and work till midnight. She was 
a boarding-house keeper. She paid $18 a 
month ; and I had not been there a week before 
I knew that she had no intention of paying the 
wages unless compelled. She tried to make 
deductions for breakages. If women who can 
help want to, why not open a free emplo^nnent 
agency, where such as I can find the place for 
which we are fitted ; where the character of the 
mistress and of the house and of the surround- 
ings can be as thoroughly investigated as our 
characters are ; where, if we are not fit, we can 
be trained to be fit. 

^'By this time I was discouraged by my 
change, but not downcast. I knew that my 
place must exist if only I could find it; but I 
was now reduced to that last $10 I had kept so 
carefully tucked inside my dress; for I had 
been reserving my room and paying the keep 
of the baby, while I experimented in finding 
a true vocation. I looked at that $10 long the 
night I came back from my second failure as 
a domestic help. Would I break M Would 
I not? W^hat had I been keeping it for? I 
wrote out a carefully worded advertisement — 
*A place wanted by a thoroughly capable and 
reliable woman as domestic help where faith- 
ful work will be appreciated and situation will 



338 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

be permanent. The liigliest references given 
and required.' This, I placed in a conserva- 
tive family daily. The answer came within 
twenty-four hours. I was requested to call on 
Madison Avenue not far from the corner on 
Fifth Avenue where I had encountered the 
hospital nurse. It was a beautiful, well-regu- 
lated home such as I had never before seen in 
my life. My new employer listened quietly as 
I told her my faltering story. Then, she asked 
me what I wished to know about her home. It 
was so surprising for me to be consulted by 
an employer as to my rights that I could not 
ask a word. I was engaged at $25 a month with 
board and uniform and two afternoons a week 
off, as general domestic help. Though some 
nights we were kept up till twelve by com- 
pany, there were other times when the whole 
family went out, and we had no duties beyond 
two in the afternoon. When we were sent to 
the city on errands, we were sent in a motor, 
or given car-fare. Often theater tickets were 
given us. We had a sitting room to receive 
friends. I do not recall that hours of work 
were ever specified; but the work we had to 
do was ; and when that was done, we were free 
to spend the day as we wished. I have again 
and again had pleasant trips with my em- 
ployer. I often drive in the park with her. In 



A HAPPY WOMAN 339 

the summer, we all go from town to their coun- 
try place. 

^'I had thought I would resent working un- 
der a mistress. Instead, I have found her a 
counselor and a friend. Once, when a brother, 
who was on the fruit vessels in the tropics, 
came to New York ill, she brought him to my 
room in her New York house and permitted me 
to nurse him back to health in her home. 

Strikes have come and strikes have gone. 
Hard times have thrown thousands out of em- 
ployment; and I have never once known what 
the fear of want meant. My little boy is in a 
school ; and I spend two afternoons a week with 
him. Though I began as general domestic 
help, like the trained nurse, at $25 a month, I 
have wound up as nursery governess at $35 a 
month; and now, my mother is housekeeper at 
|40 a month in the same home. Together, we 
am more than my father ever earned in all 
s life, or than any two of my brothers earn ; 
iid we bank four-fifths of it. 
^^What I ask myself is how could I ever 
ve been such a fool as to welter about on the 
eas of uncertainty and danger and want in 
he industrial world as a ^sub-average,' w^hen 
his, the manifest destiny of a woman, was 
.waiting me in the safe harbor of a home?'* 



340 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 



CHAPTER X 

THE MINIMUM WAGE FOR WOMEN 

Minimum wage legislation isn't coming. It 
is here. It has come so suddenly that we have 
hardly had time to consider, whether it will 
help or hurt those workers, for whom it is de- 
signed. Said one of the leading members of 
the National Eetail Dry Goods Association in 
the United States, a man, who employs thou- 
sands and pays no girl less than $10 a week, 
no apprentice less than $5— ''Minimum wage 
legislation is coming in every leading commu- 
nity. This is the day of legislation favoring 
the workers ; and the politicians are going after 
it hard as they can to capture the votes. Don't 
fight minimum wage legislation! Take the 
sting out of it by getting ahead of the poli- 
ticians and agreeing to measures that are rea- 
sonable without a single struggle.'' 

Said another member of the same associa- 
tion: ''It helps us. It gets rid of the young, 
who are incompetent and have to be trained, 
and the old, who are worn out and slow. It 



A IIATPV WOAIAN 341 

gains the approval of tlie public. (The public 
2)ays for it: we don't.) It means contented 
employees, increased service, faster work, 
higher standards.'' What became of the young, 
who were incompetent and needed training, and 
the old, who were worn out and slow, all be- 
low the dead line of earning a minimum wage, 
the speaker did not say. How the incompetent 
youths were to learn their jobs and the worn- 
out old to earn their keep, the speaker did not 
say. Those t^vo burdens would be taken off 
his shoulders. He was simply advising his as- 
sociates for politic, self-interested reasons not 
to oppose the trend of the times, not to do any- 
thing that might offend public patronage, or 
bring the odium of all that may be implied 
from under-paid w^omen back on the merchant. 
The public, in any case, would pay for the in- 
creased overhead carrying expenses. If the 
public did not object, neither should the re- 
tailer. A minimum wage, to be sure, would 
throw out all learners. It would shut the door 
in the faces of the little $1.50 cash girls with 
hair in pig tails, whom the stores first curry- 
combed, and then scrubbed, and then trained in 
a night school, from whose ranks a dozen of 
the most highly paid women workers in stores 
have risen, women, who have been on salaries 
of $7,500 for twenty years. Let it shut the door 



Sn THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

in their faces! That was no concern of the 
retailer. The retailer ^s concern was public fa- 
vor. If the public demanded a minimum wage, 
let the retailer jump to it! 

So Massachusetts has her minimum wage 
law and Wisconsin has her minimum wage law 
and Pennsylvania and Michigan and Illinois 
and Utah and California and Oregon and Lou- 
isiana are all working toward minimum wage 
laws. New Zealand and Australia are quoted 
as examples of the success of minimum wage 
laws but when England and Germany and the 
United States each sent commissioners to re- 
port on those Australasian minimum wage 
laws, not one of the commissioners could re- 
port wholly in favor of the laws as they 
worked out. One commissioner reported that 
the laws resulted in bitter class hatred and 
jealousy. Another found complaints that they 
relegated the old to attic life starvation and 
sweat shop work; and failed to spur the young 
to individual initiative. Yet, curiously enough, 
when the minimum wage commission of Massa- 
chusetts took evidence on the subject, not a 
single voice was raised against the law, among 
either employees or employers. When a very 
famous leader among women workers went to a 
big departmental store in New York a few 
years ago and requested the head to place the 



A HAPPY WOMAN 343 

minimum wage at least at $G a week, he gladly 
acceded, but in three years it was noticed that 
all the $6 a week hands, about a thousand out 
of the four thousand in the store, were under 
eighteen years of age; and these $6 a weekers 
were regularly let out as fast as they came up 
to the $7 class. There were suddenly no more 
old retainers pottering round that store, scrub- 
bing at $5 a week, packing excelsior at what 
they could earn. At $5 the store could afford 
them. At $6 it couldn't. What it raised on 
the $5's, if you will do a simple question of 
arithmetic, it saved on the $7's, each class num- 
bering about a thousand hands. That is it 
raised a thousand $5's to $6's. It held down 
a thousand $7's to $6, by changing hands as 
soon as the $6's were ready for $7. 

The almost universal demand for a minimum 
wage for women has arisen from the multitude 
of careful social surveys made within the last 
ten years. The cost of living has doubled, 
trebled, quadrupled. Have wages? White 
slavery has reared its hideous hydra-dragon 
head as a commercialized occupation. Had 
white slavery any connection with Avomen's 
wages? (I have asked that question of every 
type of women that I know, the workers, the 
fallen, the strike leaders, the rich; and their 



SU THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

answer has been an unqualified ^'no." Per- 
sonally, I think that ''no" a bit too unqualified. 
While the low wages may not produce white 
slavery, the lack of nutrition, of joy, of com- 
panionship, of security from want may beget a 
recklessness that pushes over the edge.) So 
the fact-gatherers went out pencil in hand ; and 
here are some of the things they found: 

For instance, in Milwaukee all the poorest 
women wage earners were helping others. 
Many lived in basements, stables, tenements. 
In fifty per cent, of these huddled homes, were 
people ill of more or less contagious diseases, 
carried out to other homes by the workers. 
Eents ran from $3 to $20 a month. In twenty- 
seven families, the income was less than $5 a 
week. Over seventy-three per cent, of the fac- 
tory workers were under twenty-one years of 
age. Only thirteen per cent, of the workers 
were paid more than $8 a week: nineteen per 
cent, were paid less than $4 a week. For this 
nineteen per cent, the cost of rooms ran $1.35, 
of board $3 — leaving a discrepancy on the 
wrong side. Only two boarding places had par- 
lors where girls could receive friends. Not a 
girl, as far as could be learned, augmented her 
income in illegitimate ways. 

In Boston, the commissioners decided that 
no woman wage earner could live wholesomely 



A HAPPY WOMAN 345 

under $10 a week. Of 13,000 cases investigated, 
forty per cent, earned less than $5 a week. Of 
those, who earned less than $9, a third lived in 
rooms without sunlight, half in rooms with- 
out heat. None earning below $9 could save. 
In all Massachusetts, seventy-nine per cent, 
earned less than $459 a year. 

In all the United States were nearly 80,000 
saleswomen, of whom eighty per cent, lived at 
home. Of this number, New York was cred- 
ited with 15,000, Brooklyn with 7,000. The ma- 
jority worked under a nine hour law. Father 
Eyan's investigations showed there were four 
million men earning less than $600 a year in the 
United States; whereas, the Eussell Sage 
Foundation Eeport showed that it required at 
least $800 to support a man and his family. Of 
the four millions, three-fourths were earning 
less than $600, a fifth less than $200, three- 
fifths less than $325. Look at those facts! 
Now, seventy-six per cent, of the women work- 
ers in the United States receive less than the 
men at the same employment. These surveys, 
of course, take no account of the earner, whose 
total is low because she is lazy and will not 
work. 

In Kentucky, of almost 45,000 women work- 
ers, half received less than $5.96 a week; half 
were under tw^enty-one years of age. In Chi- 



346 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

cago, it was found that the International Har- 
vester Company's minimum wage was $8; the 
biggest mail order house — employing almost 
5,000 women — had a minimum of $9.12; the 
biggest departmental store employing 4,000 
women had a minimum wage of $5. Thousands 
of telephone girls received only $3 a week. 

What more natural than the cry ''humanize 
industry''; ''muzzle not the ox that treadeth 
out the corn"; "conserve human life"; "the 
worker is of more value than the work"? The 
Boer War revealed the startling fact that Brit- 
ish workers were degenerating into scrubs: 
the men's minimum wage law resulted. What 
more easy than by the stroke of a legislative 
pen to enact minimum wage laws for women 
of $10 or $12 as the case might be? The for- 
mer figure has been suggested for Boston; the 
latter, for New York; though the Minimum 
Wage Commission of Massachusetts considers 
each case by itself and establishes no sweeping 
average; and literally, not a voice has been 
raised against this "humanizing of industry." 
In fact, the employers have rushed to meet it 
half way. It is very much easier for the em- 
ployer to have one $12 a week woman, than 
two $6's. The $12 a week woman won't need 
watching and teaching. The two $6's will; but 



A HArPY WOMAN S47 

what becomes of the $6's and $5's and $4's and 
$3's? Are their wages jumped to $10 and $12 
as they expected; or are they thrown out? Re- 
member those beneath the dead line of the 
minimum wage, are very young, or very old, or 
very unskilled. In New Zealand, it resulted 
in those beneath the dead line being crowded 
into the attic sweat shops. In Pacific Coast 
cities, where a minimum wage had voluntarily 
been adopted without any law, employers 
frankly acknowledged that they henceforth 
could employ no '' sub-averages. '' In New 
York, in certain establislunents, w^here a mini- 
mum has been voluntarily adopted, the un- 
skilled are let out at the end of the three trial 
years. In the most highly paid manufactur- 
ing plant in the world, the employers openly 
declare they will accept neither *^ sub-aver- 
ages'' nor "averages." To maintain their 
high scale of wages, they must have "super- 
averages" always. 

What becomes of the "subs" under this sys- 
tem? Every advocate of minimum wages sees 
this dilemma plainly, and solves it — in theory. 
None has yet done so in practice. From re- 
ligious enthusiasts to trades unionists, they 
say, "Adequate provision must be made for 
the unfit": "Let the State take care of those 
who can't earn a minimum wage!" 



348 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Hold on ! No state in all the world has ever 
consented to do that as far as wage-earners are 
concerned ! I have employed women again and 
again, myself, whom I have had to dismiss be- 
cause their bad tempers made it impossible 
for other women to work with them. Must we, 
who have learned to keep our tempers, more 
or less, contribute to a tax for those, who don't 
keep theirs? I offered recently to send a 
woman, who was out of work. West, where she 
could obtain work. She said she didn't want 
to go because she knew she wouldn't like it. 
Must I, who go, whether I like it or not, con- 
tribute to a tax for the woman, who will go 
only where she likes it? Another asked me if 
I could guarantee there would be amusement 
and recreation ; and could I guarantee $2 a day 
wages. I couldn't guarantee any of these 
things; for they all depended on herself; and 
she had not yet given me any guarantee that 
she was worth 2 cents. Must I, who ask no 
guarantee, but what I can ''put over," con- 
tribute to a tax for a woman, who will not try 
to make good? I do not ask these questions 
for an answer. They are self-answered; but 
they show the fearfully deep economic waters 
where one flounders, when you throw respon- 
sibility for the unfit on the State. The State, 
as Louis said, the State is you and me. Or 



A HAPrV WOMAN 349 

take those survey figures: In Massachusetts, 
seventy-nine per cent, earned less than $459. 
Must the twenty-one per cent, help to support 
the seventy-nine per cent.? Germany manages 
better, of which more farther on. 

Two other features have come up in New 
Zealand. The minimum wage shuts the door of 
opportunity in the faces of those, who are not 
even worth an apprentice's pay. The presi- 
dent of one of the biggest trusts in America 
began as a messenger at $1.50 a week. The late 
Lord Strathcona began at $100 a year. Sev- 
eral of the most highly paid women foreign 
buyers in New York began at $1.50 a week. 
Will the minimum wage bar such as these from 
finding themselves! Another feature observed 
in New Zealand was that the indolent worker 
entering at a minimum wage, on which she 
could live, lagged and lacked incentive to jump 
higher, sometimes lagged so she had to be dis- 
missed for laziness. 

Are we, then, to allow our women to be ex- 
ploited by heartless corporations, and heart- 
less machines, and a machine age that steam- 
rollers the weak like a Juggernaut car? Who 
takes a census of the scrap heap? Is a woman, 
who must ask permission to live at the will of 
some employer any better than a slave? You 



350 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

will bear these questions hammered out with 
fury, wherever there is discussion of a mini- 
mum wage ; and, like the other questions, they 
are self answered. Only in our fury of reform, 
we do it as we do everything in the United 
States; with all our might, are we quite sure 
we are not launching a boomerang to come back 
and hurt those workers we meant to help ? How 
have other nations tackled this problem? Have 
any of them solved it? How does the individ- 
ual regard it? Germany and France and Bel- 
gium cannot conceive of the causes that lead to 
minimum wage legislation in the United 
States. Their wages to store workers and in- 
dustrial toilers are only a fraction of the wages 
paid in America. Yet, they have no scrap-heap 
problem. Why is this? Because of their sys- 
tems of insurance against illness and old age 
and want, which no one has proposed as a pre- 
ventive or remedy in the United States. We 
have always been so sure of individual effort 
working out its own salvation in our democ- 
racy that the problem of wages going beneath 
the dead line of living finds us unprepared and 
all at sea, with hit or miss remedies, that may 
hurt more than they help. 

Because an ounce of human experience is 
worth a ton of theories, or one fact from a sin- 



A IIAPrv WOAIAX 351 

gle everyday life is worth a thousand pages of 
commissioners' reports, I shall set down how 
a woman worked these things out for herself. 
She would hardly have done it, if she had not 
been of German birth with that Continental 
thrift bred into her which regards the waste of 
a soup bone as a crime. It has long been a say- 
ing in Europe that a Continental family could 
live in opulence on what an American family 
throws away. This woman had been taught to 
regard the throwing away of anything as a 
cardinal sin. We pat ourselves on the back for 
''the humanizing of industry" by passing mini- 
mum wage laws. What do the minimum wage 
laws effect? They throw the burden of the dead 
line, of the increased cost of living, on the em- 
ployer. He passes it on and divides it between 
the public, that pays the price, and the com- 
petent employee, who can always keep above 
the dead line. The sub-average, he is compelled 
to throw out to the dogs. Step the second — 
let the state take care of the incompetents! But 
isn't the Continental system wiser, which 
throws the burden of the sub-average on her- 
self, w^hich compels the sub-average worker to 
take care of herself? 

Here is the story: "It was between 1883 and 
1887, in the Fatherland when the German Gov- 



352 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

eminent first began its illness insurance, and 
then followed up with its old age insurance. 
When a girl is eighteen, old age seems a long 
way off. She intends to marry. It seems ter- 
rible, when you earn only $7, $8, $10 a month, 
to have one mark deducted for old age insur- 
ance; another mark for illness insurance. I 
did not understand that a new day had come, 
when a woman must insure against illness and 
want as much as a man; when a woman must 
go out of her home to do her home job. Be- 
sides, we had heard of the great wages paid in 
America. Women in canneries got, not $10 a 
month, but $10 a week; so I emigrated to a 
girl I knew, working in a cannery in New Jer- 
sey. They got $10 a week all right. Some of 
the women, who did piece work, and got up at 
four and didn't quit till six, made as much as 
$3 a day ; but that was only in the rush seasons, 
when the tomatoes and ripe fruit came tum- 
bling in. In winter, there would be long lay- 
offs, or work half time ; so that the wages for 
the year didn't go over $500. Never mind! 
That was -^ye times more than we could save 
in Germany in five years ; but the funny thing 
was, people didn't save in this America. I was 
a decent clean girl. I wanted a decent clean 
room. I wanted a home. It cost me $2 a week; 
and you could smell cabbage and ham from the 



A ILVrPY WOMAN 353 

front door. Our car fare cost us 60 cents. Our 
meals cost us $3 a week, because going to work 
at seven and reaching home at seven, we were 
too tired to cook for ourselves. We did our 
washing on Sundays; but my chum wouldn't 
let me wear a shawl over my head any more. 
I had to have hats. I had to have gloves. I 
had to have new dresses. She said if I didn't, 
a girl would never have any chance of marry- 
ing a smart fellow. By the time I had rigged 
out as American girls dress, I didn't have a 
$1 a week of my $10 wages saved; and it wasn't 
the happy care-free life we bad lived in Ger- 
many. There were no neighbors. There 
were no friends. There was no church. There 
were no friendly dances and outings. You 
worked from seven in the morning till five. 
You had to get up at five to get your breakfast 
and catch the car to your work; and though 
you quit work at five, it was seven before you 
were home and had your dinner; and, if you 
had earned your $10, you were too tired to go 
out. There was no home life. There was no 
joy. There were pretty nearly no savings; 
and I used to get cold with fear when I won- 
dered what would happen if I took ill, or lost 
my job. 

''It must have been '88 or '89 our firm be- 
gan a system of insurance. It wasn't as safe 



354. THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

as our German Government insurance. They 
left it what you call, ^optional' to us. We could 
join or not as we pleased. You paid 25 cents 
a week. That^s $13 a year. If you staid over 
three years, and took sick, they would pay 
your medical expenses; or if you died, they 
would bury you. I didn't like to think of dy- 
ing. I was not twenty-one. Besides, there was 
another risk we never had in Germany. If you 
changed your job, you lost all you had paid in. 
''My girl chum told me that fignires proved 
that American girls changed their jobs every 
three years. In three years, I would have paid 
in $39, equal to six months' work in Germany. 
Besides, what if the American firm failed? I 
would lose my money. A great many firms, as 
you know, did fail in the 90 's. In Germany, 
if a mark were deducted from my wages for 
insurance against old age or want, it was paid 
in to the Government. There was no possibil- 
ity of my losing that. I was afraid. I had 
come a long way from my home. I did not join 
what they now call the Welfare Association of 
my firm. I believed I could save that mark 
myself better than any firm of employers 
could. My mother had taught me, it was a 
crime to throw away even a bone, which you 
could boil into soup. In America, it was dif- 
ferent. You throw away not only the bone, but 



A HAPPY WOMAN 355 

the bone with meat on it. I knew if 1 had time, 
I could live well on food costing only $1 a 
week. Yet it cost me $3 a week for three good 
meals a day. (Author's note: these are, oddly 
enough, the exact figures found in the Milwau- 
kee Survey.) So that $2 a week must have been 
wasted. I was paying $8 a month house rent 
for one room. In Germany we would have 
rented a splendid little house for that; and I 
could have sub-let all the rooms for enough to 
leave me rich. Waste! Waste! I saw it 
everywhere ; and I was afraid to join that Wel- 
fare Association of Insurance against illness 
and age. What if I changed my job after ten 
years? I would lose $390. At five per cent, 
interest, I would have lost over $500, a whole 
year's wages. It was funny in America. They 
earned big money, four times more than in 
Germany ; but it went through their fingers like 
water. They didn 't keep it ; and what you keep 
is what you have against want. I had an old 
uncle who was a miser. He used to say, it 
isn't what you earn. It's what you save. 
There was more poverty among workers in 
America than in Germany. 

*^Well, about three years after I came out, 
our firm bought a lot of canneries up in the 
Mohawk Valley. They wouldn't offer us $10 



356 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

there, because they said we could get the best 
of board, clean wholesome food, clean airy 
rooms, at $3 to $4; but they offered us $9 a 
week. On piece work we might make as high as 
$3 a day. Supposing we made $600 a year! 
Put good board at $200 a year, clothes at $100, 
that left $300 saved. You will notice I never 
lost sight of the fact that the working woman 
must — must — ^must save! It is the only wall 
between her and perdition. In Germany we 
had Government insurance. We had our 
homes; but in the New Land it was save, or 
perdition. Suppose with lay-offs, those sav- 
ings amounted only to $200. In ten years with 
interest at five per cent., that would be over 
$2,500; and I would be — say thirty-two. Two 
marks deducted from my monthly wages in 
Germany would never amount to that in ten 
years ; so I made up my mind to try our Ger- 
man insurance system against idleness and ill- 
ness and old age in America ; only I would do 
it myself. 

^^ There was another reason I thought I 
would go up country. What were we girls in 
Jersey City? What could we ever be in New 
York? A lot of cattle herded in tenements and 
back hall rooms. Who cared whether we lived 
or died? What a lot of money we were al- 
ways spending on dress ! My chum wore a hat 



A HArPY WOMAN 357 

the size of a farm wagon wheel, that cost a 
whole week's wages; and who looked at her 
twice for it; and who cared! We couldn't make 
safe friends in the big city. In the country 
villages back home, a respectable girl, who 
could earn and save, amounted to somebody. 
She didn't go begging for suitors, the way I 
have seen these girls with the big hats; so I 
took the firm's offer; and went up country at 
$1 a week Jess than we were paid in the city. 
I have always been glad I did that. 

''There was a little church of about fifty peo- 
ple. There was a Christian Endeavor. There 
was a young people's social society. I joined 
them all; and they all helped me; and I felt 
that I belonged somewhere. Why can't all the 
big factories be located in the country? Liv- 
ing costs only a third as much as in the city. 
For instance, for $6 a month, I rented a seven- 
room house with a furnace ; and a brook flowed 
through the lawn. I sublet rooms to other 
workers in the cannery at $1.50 a room a 
month. I rented out four rooms. Those rooms 
paid my rent. Then I raised potatoes, and 
kept two pigs, and 150 chickens. After the 
first year, the fruit from the garden, the po- 
tatoes, the pig and the chickens paid all the 
cost of my living. I could raise a hundred 
bushels of potatoes. I kept these in the cellar. 



358 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

and sold them in spring at $1 a bushel. The 
chickens sometimes gave me as much as $12 
clear a week in eggs. They cost me about $12 
a month in feed and labor. A man to whom I 
rented a room off the kitchen did the work 
cheap. The apples and pears I sold round the 
village at $3 a barrel. I usually got 3 barrels 
of pears and 20 of apples. The fruit bought all 
my clothes after the first year in the country. 
The two pigs I sold to the local butcher for 
from $50 to $60 each fall. They cost me in 
feed about $27 a year, bran and ground corn. 
Two years from the time I went to the coun- 
try I could have, not two marks a month, 
which I would have paid in insurance in Ger- 
many, but every cent of my wages. Sometimes, 
on piece work, those wages amounted to $2 a 
day; but when the lay-offs came, we were on 
half time; and my wages didn't go much over 
$500 a year. I saved every cent of them for 
five years. Then I could afford what I never 
could have afforded in Germany, or the city. 
When I sold the pigs, I bought a good warm 
fur coat; and every year as I sold the pigs 
and the chickens, I tried to buy what was per- 
manent — in furnishings or clothes. You bet 
money didn't go through my fingers like water 
any more. I always paid 25 cents a week into 
the church, and 10 cents a week into the Chris- 



A HAPPY WOMAN 359 

tian Endeavor and Young People's Social So- 
ciety. I was superintendent of the Sunday 
School for three years, and treasurer in the 
church for five. 

''Maybe, you think all these things don't 
matter to a lone woman; but they do. They 
make up her life. They make her belong 
somewhere; and that's what we all want to do 
— to belong, to be something besides a gin horse 
on a treadmill like our old gray mare at the 
factory, that works the chain for the coal chute. 
That's why men and women marry — to belong, 
to anchor, to get their roots down, to have 
something that is theirs, where the world can't 
come in and throw them out. 

''So I say if the employers, who establish 
the Welfare Associations, want to do good, as 
you say they do, why don't they build their 
factories in the country? They could run them 
half as cheap. My wages were $1 to $3 a week 
lower than they would have been in town. I 
have told you about rents. Let me tell you 
about meat. Usually, we boarded at a straight 
$3 a week in the city; but one winter we tried 
to save by cooking our own meals. We could 
never afford steak or chicken. (I have chicken 
once a week in the country.) We could afford 
only boiling pieces. They cost us from 22 to 
25 cents a pound. Steak was anything from 



360 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

28 to 32. In the country, steak was 20 to 22, 
boiling pieces 17 to 18. If they would only es- 
tablish their factories in the country, it would 
do away with these crowded tenements, these 
housing evils. Men and women wouldn't die 
cursing, or get so discouraged they won't try, 
just because they can't get on. Boys and girls 
need fun. We had it in the countrj^; and we 
had it respectably. There were night sleigh 
drives in winter. There were dances in the 
town hall. There were the church sociables 
once a month. We didn 't need to go to hell for 
fun. If these rich people, who spend so much 
investigating, would persuade the factory own- 
ers to build in the country, it would do away 
with half the evils people are arguing about. 
Of course, department stores can't move out; 
but the mail order houses could, and the white 
goods factories, and the cap makers, and the 
ready made clothes houses, and the fur work- 
ers, and nearly all factories. The agitators 
wouldn't have a job if the factories moved from 
the cities to the country. 

*^I have told you about my little house, for 
which I paid $6 a month. In our village and 
in the villages round about, were lots of little 
houses with water and an acre or two of 
ground, which could be bought for from $300 
to $600. I know an eight-roomed house 



A HAPPY WOMAN 361 

bouglit for $300; a twelve-roomed one, that 
wouldn't sell for $600. A little paint and pa- 
per would have made them as good as mine. 
Seven years after I went to the country, the 
house where I lived was offered for sale. It 
had cost $3,500; and was offered for $2,000. 
Why this decline? Because the factory habit 
in town has drawn so many families away from 
the country, that all these little Down East 
villages are going back, and don't realize what 
a good thing they have. I had $2,200 in the 
bank. People said I was a fool to buy. All 
the villages in the East were going back and 
back. This village once had a population of 
1,200. It now had less than 300; but I figured 
this way, if I owned my home clear of debt, I 
would always be secure against want. I 
couldn't lose it; and failures in big depart- 
mental stores in New York and big factories 
must have swept away all the welfare insur- 
ance of many girls. Besides, girls in cities 
change jobs every three years. I couldn't lose 
the house. If I lost my job, I could make the 
rent for it, and the garden, and the chickens, 
keep me; so I had the title searched, and 
bought it, paying down cash. I could not have 
accomplished that in any other land in twenty 
years. I could not have bought a house in the 
city in a lifetime; and I now had what would 



362 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

be considered a rich dowry for any girl back 
home. 

"Mighty glad I was I had it! If you will re- 
member how slack times were before 1900, you 
will know how our factory had to run half 
time. If I had not had the rent and the gar- 
den and the chickens, my income would have 
fallen to $3 a week, on which you could only 
starve in the city; but, with everything, I man- 
aged to keep my income up to $500 clear a 
year. My girl chum had married a man in 
California; and it was the beginning of the 
orange grove business, when you could buy at 
$100 an acre. She wrote me about it. Soon as 
I had $1,500 more to the good, I took a trip out 
to visit her ! Pretty good, you think, for a fac- 
tory woman, one house clear, $1,500 in the 
bank, and a mid- winter trip to California; but 
it is no better than any woman can do who sets 
her mind to save — save — save no matter where 
she is, same as the German system of insur- 
ance, only you do it yourself. You needn't 
think I was doing anything extraordinary. My 
next door neighbor, a widow, was in the can- 
neries like myself. She had paid for a $3,500 
house before she was forty-five, and brought up 
her daughter to be a teacher. There were a 
dozen women who did better than I could in the 



A HAPPY WOMAN 363 

village. They could work quicker on piece- 
work and make more. Well, I paid $100 an acre 
down, and bought ten acres of a lemon grove in 
California. It took about half my savings each 
year to pay for the irrigation and care of the 
young grove. My chum's husband did that. 

'' Perhaps, there is something else I should 
tell you here. To be happy, a woman wants not 
only to belong somewhere, but she wants hu- 
mans belonging to her. She wants a nest all 
right; but she wants birds in it. She wants it 
lined with love and home joys ; so just before I 
bought the California lemon grove, I brought 
my father and mother out from Germany, with 
the orphan boy of a dead brother. This made 
me very happy; though neither of my parents 
lived long after coming to America. My 
nephew, I managed somehow to send to the 
high school, where he passed the entrance ex- 
aminations to Cornell. By working on farms 
in summer and selling papers in the evenings, 
he had saved enough money to put himself 
through Cornell. (Author's note: This boy, 
launched by a woman below the dead line of the 
advocated minimum wage, is to-day at the head 
of one of the largest insurance companies in 
the Orient— salary $9,000 a year.) 

^'You ask how my lemon grove came out? I 



364 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

have liad it ten years. Last year, it cleared me 
$1,200; but it is only beginning to bear; and 
will do better when I go out and manage it my- 
self. The secret of my success? Not ability! 
Not brains ! I 'm only very average ! I 'm Ger- 
man and ponderous, though I think I go sure ! 
The secret? No secret, just thrift — thrift — 
thrift, saving a little, no matter what I earned ; 
and when I couldn't save in town, finding work 
where I could save. 

"And now about this minimum wage, that's 
what played the very mischief! I wish social 
reformers would put on an apron and come out 
and do a year's factory work themselves! 
They would see how these fine schemes work. 
A lot of books on women, who work, had come 
out. Most of them were written by women, 
who don't work. The papers were full of min- 
imum wage talk. Our firm didn't oppose it. 
Of course not ! They had to have the good will 
of the public ; but they saw it coming ; and what 
they did was to pension off everybody over 
fifty in our cannery, on pensions that ran from 
$8 to $12 a month. Lots of us had been work- 
ing at half time at $5 a week, at $3 a week. No 
more half time! We were knocked off, every- 
one of us who couldn 't earn the minimum wage 
of $10 a week. I didn't come in for a pension; 
because I was under fifty. The men and 



A HAPPY WOMAN 365 

women thrown out on pensions couldn't live on 
those pensions unless they had a house. They 
knocked about from job to job and place to 
place, poor worn-out people unused to new fac- 
tories. They couldn't keep jobs in new factories 
under the new system of speed to earn higher 
wages. On our floor alone 40 out of 50 were 
thrown out. In their places were taken, not 50 
new hands, but ten raw husky strong boys at 
$10 a week. If you figured out, you would see 
that the firm saved a hundred a week on our 
floor alone through the minimum wage. As soon 
as these boys were competent to earn more, they 
were passed out and a new set taken on. That's 
what the minimum wage did for us. It sounds 
very pretty in theory. It doesn't work out so 
fine. "What am I going to do? As soon as I 
succeed in renting my house, I am going out to 
California to take charge of my lemon grove." 
No comment is needed on what this woman 
accomplished before she was forty-five. Her 
record has been surpassed by countless others, 
of whom the world never hears. Complaint is 
always loud-mouthed. Success is too busy to 
talk. Untried remedies look easy; but this 
woman's case is remarkable in that it shows 
exactly how the minimum wage worked out in 
a practical case; and it shows how the thrift 
system embodied in German insurance can be 



366 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

worked out in the individual life. If minimum 
wages entail state care of those thrown out, as 
every advocate of the system acknowledges, it 
might be worth considering whether the Ger- 
man system of insuring against illness, idleness 
and age is not wiser than a system that throws 
a discarded worker between the devil and the 
deep sea. The employer cannot employ below 
the dead line. The state has not yet indicated 
that it will. It is worth while setting down the 
fact that, wherever insurance against illness 
and old age exists, the death rate has fallen; 
and there is no human scrap heap. 



A HAPPY WOMAN 367 



CHAPTER XI 

AN AWAKENING, OR A REVOLT? 

And now we come back to those questions 
with which this narrative of facts in life set 
out. Are there any more happy women left 
on this good green earth? Do all those mar- 
ried wish to escape from the cage? Do all 
those unmarried wish to break into the cage? 
Is suffering, such suffering as Jean Ingelow 
and Felicia Hemans voiced, a necessary part 
of woman's lot? Is there any virtue, except the 
virtue of the sheep-t^^De, cowed through stu- 
pidity, or timidity, in suffering by women? 
Does that suffering help or hurt the race? Is 
there a reason on earth why any child should 
be born in sadness, instead of gladness, with 
the taint of sadness in its blood and tht^ shadow 
of tragedy across its soul, instead of that 
joy and light which brood over the dawn of 
all nature 's days ? Is the unrest among women 
a revolt; or an awakening? Or is it a re- 
adjustment to new conditions? 



368 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

And these questions are all answered before 
they are asked. You have but to strip the 
facts behind them free of pretence and argu- 
ment; and the interrogation mark behind the 
question changes to an exclamation of glad 
surprise. Women are to-day what they have 
been throughout the history of the race — good 
wives, good mothers, good '^pals,'^ good sweet- 
hearts, good sisters. Women in industry are 
no new thing. Women have been in industry 
since time began; and the women, who have 
gone out to factory, to office, to school room, 
to hospital, to clinic, to platform are but doing, 
outside the home, what their mothers and 
grandmothers did inside the home. To take 
three-quarters of woman's vocations outside 
the home, and to leave her with manacled 
hands inside the home, would be to let her 
beat her life out against the cave wall of a 
prison cell in an idleness that would be mad- 
ness. 

What, then, of the unrest? What of the 
wail of woe from the married; from the un- 
married; from the idle, who want to work; 
and the workers, who want to idle? Growth is 
attended with growing pains. Children awak- 
ening have been known to be querulous. Ma- 
chinery being readjusted often creaks and 
jolts. The hour of all the twenty-four, when 



A HAPPY WOMAN 369 

the fever falls and the patient takes the turn 
to recovery and strength is always the dark- 
est hour, just before the dawn. If you know 
anything about the wonderful secret life of 
the dumb creation, you will know it is the hour 
when the animals turn restlessly, when the deer 
steal from their thickets, when the song birds 
stab the night air with strange notes before 
the chorus that greets full day. 

So do I see it of our own age! Consider 
the marvelous complexities of the age in which 
we live! 

Formerly, when a woman wished a garment, 
she carded her own wool. She spun over her 
own loom. She sewed the cloth with her own 
hands. To-day, she must not only go out of 
the home to spin the w^ool; but she can spin 
only by permission of the owner of a huge ma- 
chine, often only by permission of a huge cor- 
poration, which controls the means of liveli- 
hood of thousands like herself. So of the other 
vocations that have gone out of the home. 
Service, she seeks; Service of the Race, which 
is the only avenue to Happiness for any hu- 
man being, rich or poor, fit or misfit; and that 
Service she can obtain only by the permission 
of some other human being. Sometimes she 
fails to find it altogether, w^hether she be rich 
or poor, married or single. Then, there re- 



370 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

suits the scrap heap, the untellable tragedy of 
an utterly wasted life, the desert-dried soul, 
wind-tossed and tempestuous, drab-gray as the 
arid dust unwatered by the gladness of giving 
and getting happiness, whether in the passion- 
ate ecstasies of love, or those other as pas- 
sionate ecstasies of devotion to some work. Is 
it any wonder there are jolt, clamor, discord? 
The seekers for Service are lost seeking — that 
is all; and he, or she, who can shed one shaft 
of radiance to light them to their place, will 
be the truest helper of to-day. I do not think 
the scolds will do much. Women are asking — 
''What must I do to be saved; to be saved 
from Self?" ''What must I do to find some- 
thing to do that is worth while T' And the 
scolds are saying, ' ' Go back and be married ' ' ; 
"Go and get unmarried"; "Drop industrial 
work and go back to the home"; "Drop the 
home and go out to a vocation." Women are 
asking — "What must I do to be saved from 
Self; to find something to do that is worth 
while"; and for bread and meat and light, the 
scolds are proffering the serpent-envenomed 
tongue lashing of an ancient fish-wife. I am 
not keen on the scolds. I don't think they will 
get us anywhere, for the simple reason that 
what has happened has not resulted from con- 



A HAPPY WOMAN 371 

scions choice. It has resulted from the com- 
pulsion of necessity. 

Take the unnatural conditions under which 
much industry is conducted! There are fac- 
tories where as many as 9,000 men are em- 
ployed without a single woman. There are 
factories where as many as 5,000 women are 
employed under a few dozen men. The grand- 
fathers and grandmothers of these men and 
women worked together in their vocations. In 
America, they even worked together in their 
Indian Wars and the subjugation of the wil- 
derness; in monastic foundation and Quaker 
assembly. To-day, such industrial life has bi- 
furcated the race, with detriment that need not 
be given here. How we shall work it out re- 
mains to be seen; but one highest Service to 
the Race is practically handicapped. Is it sur- 
prising there results unrest? 

And we are no longer going it blind. Afore- 
time, the imbecile was ascribed to the mysteri- 
ous Will of God. (I know of twelve imbeciles 
in one reformatory born of one degenerate 
mother, all ascribed under the old order to that 
mysterious AVill of a capricious God.) The un- 
fit, the prenatal failures, the prenatal crimi- 
nals all were ascribed to Deity. We no longer 
utter these pious blasphemies. We stand up to 
the realization of our own human sins and 



372 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

blunders. We are doing so much to protect 
the unfit, we realize that if we do not lessen 
the supply, our race will be swamped ; and that 
brings us under one of the most piercing 
searchlights that ever illuminated the path of 
the race. Searchlights as a rule are supposed 
to light up the path behind. This one searches 
the way to the fore. We demand not only the 
protection of the unfit, but the protection of 
the unborn. This may mean a decreased birth 
rate as to numbers. We can stand a decreased 
birth rate as to quantity if it means a higher 
average as to quality. Athens, not China, t}^i- 
fies civilization for us. 

Nor do I see a symptom of decadence in 
modern divorce. We called appendicitis by an- 
other name long ago and let the patient die. 
To-day, we apply the surgeon ^s knife and save 
the life. I see in divorce not evidence of se- 
cret vice, but a life-saving knife. The Service 
of the Eace is the only criterion by which we 
can judge it; and God is served best, not by 
kow-towing to what others may think, not by 
taking out an insurance policy for ourselves to 
secure a future Heaven of which we can know 
nothing, but by securing as much as possible of 
the Kingdom of Heaven for others and our- 
selves on this earth. 



A HAPPY WOiMAN 373 

Granted it may all mean a new chivalry, a 
new womanhood, a new race, a new religion. 
Have we so little faith in the old that we fear 
for the full flower that may burgeon in the 
new ? 



FEB J 1355